The maternal mortality ratio is unacceptably high in Africa. Forty per cent of all pregnancy-related deaths worldwide occur in Africa. On average, over 7 women die per 1,000 live births. About 22,000 African women die each year from unsafe abortion, reflecting a high unmet need for contraception. Contraceptive use among women in union varies from 50 per cent in the southern sub-region to less than 10 per cent in middle and western Africa" UNFPA

Early and unwanted childbearing, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and pregnancy-related illnesses and deaths account for a significant proportion of the burden of illness experienced by women in Africa. Gender-based violence is an influential factor negatively impacting on the sexual and reproductive health of one in every three women. Many are unable to control decisions to have sex or to negotiate safer sexual practices, placing them at great risk of disease and health complications.

According to UNAIDS, there is an estimated of 22.2 million people living with HIV in Sub-Saharan African in 2009, which represents 68% of the global HIV burden. Women are at higher risk than men to be infected by HIV, their vulnerability remains particulary high in the Sub-Saharan Africa and 76% of all HIV women in the world live in this region.

In almost all countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, the majority of people living with HIV are women, especially girls and women aged between 15-24. Not only are women more likely to become infected, they are more severely affected. Their income is likely to fall if an adult man loses his job and dies. Since formal support to women are very limited, they may have to give up some income-genrating activities or sacrifice school to take care of the sick relatives.

For more information on HIV/AIDS and Reproductive health, please visit the following websites:

Source: UNFPA East and Southern Africa 

United Nations — Fully investing in midwives by 2035 would avert roughly two-thirds of maternal, newborn deaths and stillbirths, saving 4.3 million lives per year.

Millions of lives of women and newborns are lost, and millions more experience ill health or injury, because the needs of pregnant women and skills of midwives are not recognized or prioritized.

Source: UNFPA East and Southern Africa 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lesotho experienced a 14 per cent decline in family planning coverage in certain districts in 2020, compared to 2019, with one district registering a significant 40 per cent drop.

Source: The Rwenzori Times

Woman MP for Mitoma District, Hon Jovah Kamateka, last week moved a motion for resolution of Parliament urging government to develop and enforce policies and strategies to protect girls against teenage pregnancy and child marriages.

The legislator is pushing for government intervention in laying strategies and putting in place measures to address the rising cases of teenage pregnancies both during and post the Covid-19 pandemic.

Source: GroundUp 

Birth control pills freely distributed in Zimbabwe are being smuggled into and sold in South Africa.

Many Zimbabwean women prefer these pills above those from South African clinics.

The market is fuelled by the struggle women have to access health facilities.

Source: Global Citizen 

Women and girls in Namibia will no longer be charged a luxury tax rate of 15% of value-added tax (VAT) on sanitary products.

The Namibian government eliminated VAT on sanitary products — also known as the “tampon tax” — on March 17. The announcement follows a motion set in place by the deputy minister of information and communication technology, Emma Theofelus, on March 3. The exemption will take effect in the 2022/2023 financial year, according to Finance Minister Iipumbu Shiimi.

Source: Devex

KAYA, Burkina Faso — Ramata Sawadogo was eight weeks pregnant when she was chased from her home by gunmen in May of last year. The 30-year-old spent the next few months running from village to village, in search of refuge and health care, in Burkina Faso’s center-north region.

Source: Nyasa Times

Some chiefs in the Southern Region have backed an amendment of the abortion law that allows for the termination of unwanted pregnancies under certain conditions and are persuading members of Parliament to pass the Termina pf Pregnancy Bill when it is tabled for debate during the current sitting of the National Assembly.

Source: New Zimbabwe

THE High Court Wednesday ordered the Harare City Council and government to re-open 42 local clinics that had been closed without notice recently.

Source: Pregnancy Help News

The current abortion laws in South Africa are pretty liberal and are even hailed as some of the most progressive abortion laws on the books. Yet, many doctors and healthcare providers will refuse to do legal abortions or even give a referral for one for reasons of religion or conscience. In fact, the general population is also opposed to abortion, with over half the population thinking abortion is always immoral in cases of family poverty, fetal anomaly, or both.

Source: Swazi Media Commentary

A High Court judge in the deeply conservative kingdom of Swaziland (eSwatini) has started a debate about legalising abortion.

Judge Qinisile Mabuza heard a case involving a 26-year-old woman who was accused of causing the death of her four-year-old son, by drowning him in a river.

The eSwatini Observer reported that the child’s father had denied paternity, leaving her to rise the child herself. This prompted the judge to question what provisions were available for women who found themselves in similar situations.

The Swazi Constitution provides that abortion might be allowed on medical or therapeutic grounds, including where a doctor certifies that continued pregnancy will endanger the life or constitute a serious threat to the physical health of the woman; continued pregnancy will constitute a serious threat to the mental health of the woman; there is serious risk that the child will suffer from physical or mental defect of such a nature that the child will be irreparably seriously handicapped.However, no law exists to put the constitutional provisions into effect. 

According to the Observer, ‘In her subsequent remarks, she [Judge Mabuza] hinted that she viewed the current situation as shackling women’s autonomy, making an undertaking to tackle the current ban on abortion before she retires from the bench.

‘In fact, the learned judge believes it would be reasonable to allow women to make a decision on whether to perform an abortion.’

The Observer reported, she added some of the rights of women had been addressed through the 2018 Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act and it was time that society explored the possibility of legalising abortion as well.

Later, a number of representatives from organisations within Swaziland supported the idea of a debate. Acting Director Bongani Msibi of the Family Life Association of Swaziland (FLAS), a leader in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights delivery and youth programming in Swaziland, said the illegality of abortion often posed serious risks to women, and that legalisation could help to protect their reproductive and health rights.

Acting Director Zanele Thabede of Women and the Law of Southern Africa (WLSA) said abortion law reform should be discussed. She told the Observer it was important to have meaningful conversations whatever your beliefs about abortion.

Head of the Human Rights  and  Integrity Commission Sabelo Masuku said the group was in support of the call by the judge to have Swaziland revisit its position on abortion.

Because abortions are illegal in Swaziland it is difficult to say accurately how many are performed in the kingdom. However, in August 2018 the Times of Swaziland reported that every month, nurses at the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital in Manzini attended more than 100 cases of young women who had committed illegal abortions.

The IRIN news agency, quoting FLAS reported that in October 2012 more than 1,000 women were treated for abortion-related complications at a single clinic in Swaziland.

Source: NATION

The focus on containing the spread of coronavirus has hit crucial mother-to-child health care services, including family planning and immunisation, research has shown.

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