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: AllAfrica
By Nadia Krige

A breakthrough study conducted by Professor Keertan Dheda and Dr Michele Tomasicchio, at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Centre for Lung Infection and Immunity, has revealed that one of South Africa’s most commonly-used injectable contraceptives could potentially increase women’s chances of contracting tuberculosis (TB).

Source: The Guardian
Rwanda’s president has pardoned hundreds of girls and women jailed for abortion.

Source: CSJNews
Litigation is one strategy that can result in clarification of current vague abortion laws, which are perpetrating violation of women rights, a reproductive health champion has said.

Source: Broadly 

Before her life changed irrevocably, Folake Oduyoye was an ordinary woman, working as a fashion designer in the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria. She loved her job, her husband Adeyemi Oduyoye recalls. He would plead with her not to work too late, so that they could leave at the same time each day and head home together to take care of their three young children. “I used to tell her, do your best and leave the rest until tomorrow,” Adeyemi says, smiling a little.

But when Folake went to hospital to deliver their fourth child in late August of 2014, the familiar rhythm of their lives was suddenly upended. She developed an infection after her C-section and was referred to a government facility, the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), for emergency care. Her lengthy time in ICU racked up a fee of almost 1.4 million Naira (approx. $4,000) that became impossible for her and her husband to pay. When it was time for her to be discharged, Adeyemi alleges that the hospital refused to let her go.

Instead, they moved Folake to a guarded ward, where she was imprisoned alongside other patients who couldn’t pay their medical bills, her husband claims.

He says that Folake was forbidden from leaving this ward, or receiving any treatment within it. Adeyemi slept beside her each night. During the day he tried to convince hospital staff to let him pay the bill in monthly instalments and let her go; he was driven by his wife’s hope that she’d be home for Christmas. But according to him, the hospital refused. “We spent a month and 13 days there, without treatment, without anything, before my wife developed a cough,” Adeyemi says.

It was a fatal sign: A few days later, in the early hours of Saturday 13 December, Folake died with Adeyemi by her side from a combination of sepsis and pneumonia.

Today, Adeyemi, a slight, soft-spoken man, says he still weeps when he thinks of her. “These people, they caused me to have no wife, they made my children motherless,” he claims, referring to the hospital staff. Speaking on behalf of LUTH, the hospital’s lawyer Onmonya Oche Emmanuel said they denied these allegations at the time, and that this still stands. But Adeyemi doesn’t accept that. “I need justice. If I step aside, they will continue doing this.”

Four years on, a team of lawyers called the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), is still trying to get to the bottom of Folake’s case. This Lagos-based organization provides pro-bono legal services to women experiencing human rights abuses, including domestic violence and acid attacks. When Adeyemi contacted them four years ago with his wife’s story, it intensified WARDC’s activities to stop the illegal practice that caused Oduyoye’s death—a phenomenon known as hospital detention.

Imprisoning someone within a hospital is a clear contravention of the human right to liberty—and yet this practice is surprisingly widespread, occurring far beyond Nigeria. It is a global phenomenon, typically occurring in countries where emergency healthcare isn’t free or insured. For underfunded hospitals, it’s a means of extracting fees from people who can’t pay their medical bills upfront, usually by forcing them to call on relatives and friends to come to their aid. Women face a higher risk of being detained because birth often involves unforeseeable emergency care, such as C-sections, or the treatment of postpartum haemorrhage. It’s possible that thousands of people in Nigeria are detained in hospitals yearly—though without data, it’s difficult to confirm the precise number, says Onyema Afulukwe, senior legal counsel for Africa with the US-based Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR).

Inside WARDC’s offices, Emmanuela Azu, one of the lawyers on Folake’s case, wears an easy smile that belies the steely resolve required to do her job. “There’s a culture in Nigeria that when a woman dies [in childbirth], it’s an act of God. But it’s beyond an act of God; it’s due to the negligence of someone, somewhere,” she says.

This thinking is embodied by a 2008 report that WARDC produced with the CRR investigating the causes of Nigeria’s high maternal mortality rate—which ranks second-highest in the world. Annually, the country loses roughly 40,000 womenduring pregnancy and childbirth. “The idea behind [the report] was to identify hidden or ignored factors behind the high level of preventable maternal deaths,” says lead author Afulukwe.

During an undercover fact-finding mission that took her into Nigeria’s hospitals, Afulukwe and WARDC colleagues discovered multiple cases where women—often those who had given birth—were being illegally detained. “Typically the women would be kept in a separate ward. In some instances they couldn’t see sunlight, they would be forced to sleep on the floor, and they wouldn’t be given any food,” she says. “It was a condition of detention that amounted to torture, in many instances.”

Alongside other more direct causes of death, like negligence, WARDC and CRR argued that the practice of detaining women compounds the country’s already elevated maternal death rate, mainly by making pregnant women too afraid to seek medical care for fear of being imprisoned.

Against this backdrop, when Oduyoye’s story came to WARDC’s attention in 2014, it was potent fuel for their growing awareness campaign against maternal deathsin Nigeria. “It brought to reality most of the issues we have been agitating for over the years, such as high user fees, detention, and negligence,” says Azu.It also represented a unique opportunity to hold the state directly accountable for the continuing deaths of women in healthcare facilities.

WARDC founder Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi explains that the organization typically focuses on cases like Oduyoye’s that distil major gender equality issues in Nigeria—cases that “can become a class action, that can address issues on a larger scale,” she says. In 2015, they took the case to court, with Adeyemi as their key witness against the state.

WARDC’s premise was that it was the government’s failure to provide a working welfare department at the hospital that forced the institution to revert to illegal means of making people pay, Azu explains. “The state should have a mechanism of holding people accountable to repay—not detaining them and denying them their rights to freedom and healthcare,” she says.

But after more than two years of sluggish proceedings, Oduyoye’s case was overturned in May 2018 on a technicality by the Federal High Court in Nigeria. “I was really very depressed,” Azu says. “The judgement was very frivolous—the merit of the case wasn’t even looked into.”

Akiyode-Afolabi has her own beliefs about why it was struck off: “It was obvious that the state was just trying to find a way of dismissing the case, because if we’d gotten a judgement it would have affected other cases across Nigeria,” she says. “They really don’t want that precedent to be laid, and that’s why we’re going back to court.” WARDC plans to continue pursuing the Oduyoye case, motivated by the fates of so many other women that hinge on its outcome.

Most of WARDC’s work on maternal rights abuses revolves around more general cases of healthcare failure in government facilities—such as delayed care, understaffed hospitals, and underpaid staff—issues that ultimately fall under the government’s remit. “When you look at the web, it goes back to the failure of the state to do something at a particular time,” Azu says.

This tack has brought them successes in the past. In one case, their investigations prompted a public enquiry in a government hospital that delayed treatment of a woman who haemorrhaged to death after giving birth. In another, five women died in the space of a week after each receiving a blood transfusion: WARDC exposed a local blood bank as the source of contaminated blood, and the facility was subsequently shut down.

 "We can stop detention—we can stop all this—if we push, and if people are ready to stand to the end. "

To help them tackle more cases like this, WARDC runs training courses that teach lawyers how to creatively navigate the Nigerian constitution to litigate cases revolving around maternal, sexual, and reproductive rights. In 2017, Azu says they trained 24 judges on these issues, from across the federal high courts of Nigeria. She adds that the organization also employs a team of 20 people to work on this problem at the frontline: inside hospitals.

These ‘maternal health monitors’ are “women who we train to become like spies, who go into hospitals to find out about their state,” explains Akiyode-Afolabi. Continuing in the tradition of 2008 fact-finding mission, the monitors—who rotate between about 30 hospitals mainly in Lagos and the northwestern state of Kaduna—report back on instances of hospital negligence, and also identify new cases of hospital detention.

Funmi Jolade Ajayi is one of these 20 monitors, and has been volunteering with WARDC since 2012. She explains that her presence works to deter the maltreatment of patients in the three government hospitals where she routinely works. “They know me as an activist, and that I have to monitor the wrongs of the government to correct them,” Ajayi says. “My presence there is a threat to them.” She also enlists the help of pregnant women in her community to report back on conditions within the hospital, and gathers photographic evidence to share directly with the police, she says.

In the aftermath of Oduyoye’s death, WARDC became acutely aware of how it important it is to formally identify cases of hospital detention using their network of monitors. Getting women to come forward with their stories would reveal the national scale of this phenomenon: “I think the fact that we don’t have this kind of data means people don’t really know that it’s happening,” Akiyode-Afolabi says.

WARDC’s next ambitious task is to gradually build up a class-action case against the government, made up of female detainees—though getting identified victims to share their grievances hasn’t been easy, Akiyode-Afolabi admits. Women who have been through detention or other forms of hospital maltreatment understandably want to distance themselves from the trauma. Many also aren’t aware that their rights should protect them from these scenarios, she says.

Their efforts to establish a class-action case are therefore just as much about versing women in their rights, as achieving justice—something that goes back to the organization’s founding principles, Akiyode-Afolabi explains. “The issues of pregnant women were issues only for researchers. We hadn’t seen them take actions on their own,” she says. “We decided to focus on working with pregnant women, so we could build their capacity, to help them to speak for themselves.”

The fruition of that goal would be seeing women testify in court against a system that has infringed on their rights. The lawyers are now gathering evidence to make this class-action a reality. A long road lies ahead. But Akiyode-Afolabi remains adamant: “We need to fight more for accountability. We can stop detention—we can stop all this—if we push, and if people are ready to stand to the end.”

Meanwhile, in early March WARDC received news that Folake’s case has been approved for appeal. It will be considered again in court on the 2nd of May, marking a new phase for this landmark case. Adeyemi insists he will be there beside WARDC, fighting on his wife’s behalf. “We are,” he explains, “supposed to value a human being more than money.”


Source: Swazi Observer
By Zwelethu Dlamini

Dondon community woke up to unbelievable news on Saturday morning last week when several police officers stormed a Xaba family to apprehend a man in relation to the death of a schoolgirl who was found in a nearby bush.

Source: UNFPA

Lilongwe — Almost half a million women and girls are in need of sexual and reproductive health services in Malawi, following the recent floods caused by tropical cyclone Idai, which have affected 14 out of the 28 districts.

Source: The Namibian
The government, through the ministry of gender equality, has decriminalised baby dumping to allow mothers to leave their unwanted newborn babies at safe places without the risk of prosecution.

Source: VOA News
Kenyan health officials say unsafe abortions are common in the east African nation with nearly half a million in one recent year. Abortion is prohibited unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger. Advocates for less restrictive policies argue that unsafe abortions contribute to a high level of maternal deaths.

Source: Thomson-Reuters Foundation News

More than 70 babies were born with microcephaly in Angola - suspected victims of an emerging Zika outbreak.

Emiliano Cula starts to cry as his tiny fingers, curled into a tight fist, are stretched by a physical therapist to stimulate motor control.

Born in a poor neighborhood of Angola's capital Luanda, the 10-month old boy has microcephaly, a birth defect marked by a small head and serious developmental problems. He still can't sit upright and has difficulty seeing and hearing.

Source: South China Morning Post


An acclaimed US charity operating in Liberia has admitted to major failings after girls at a school set up to save them from a life of sexual exploitation were systematically raped “We are profoundly, deeply sorry,” the charity More Than Me said on its website on Saturday after US investigative media said girls at a pioneering school in a slum had been repeatedly abused by the charity’s co-founder, Macintosh Johnson.Johnson eventually died of Aids and there are fears that he infected some of his victims – who were aged as young as 10 – with HIV which causes Aids, the investigative site ProPublica said in a lengthy investigative piece co-published with Time.

“To all the girls who were raped by Macintosh Johnson in 2014 and before: we failed you,” More Than Me said.“We gave Johnson power that he exploited to abuse children. Those power dynamics broke staff ability to report the abuse to our leadership immediately.

“Our leadership should have recognised the signs earlier and we have and will continue to employ training and awareness programmes so we do not miss this again.”

The assaults took place at a school at West Point, a notorious slum in the capital Monrovia. It opened in 2013 to a blaze of publicity, becoming the first of 18 schools that More Than Me opened in the impoverished West African state to empower girls.

The charity eventually raised more than US$8 million in funding, nearly US$600,000 of which came from the US government, and gained the support of Liberia’s then president and Nobel Peace Laureate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

ProPublica described Johnson as a “charming hustler” who insinuated himself with Katie Meyler, who created the charity

Meyler, an evangelical Christian, had come to Liberia to try to help the country after its emergence from 14 years of civil war.

She threw herself into the task of helping girls in the slums.

Back in the US, she rubbed shoulders with philanthropist Warren Buffett, TV star and activist Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities in her campaign to drum up donations.

After some of the girls came forward to reveal what was happening, Johnson was suspended by the school and arrested.

He was put on trial in 2015, but this ended in a hung jury amid suggestions of bribes, ProPublica said. He was facing a retrial when he died in 2016 from an illness that the site said was Aids.

In its statement, More Than Me said it had been “naive to believe that providing education alone is enough to protect these girls from the abuses they may face – strong institutions, safeguarding policies and vigilance are needed to do that.”

Among the changes it had introduced, the charity maintained, was the providing of “private, school-wide HIV testing” to all students. 

Source: The Guardian

In a country where one in four women have a child by 19, and health workers offering birth control have been met by men with machetes, confronting myths about contraception is vital.

A woman lies on her back, a one-year-old straddling her. One hand is over her eyes, the other held out. A nurse gently inserts a small white strip of contraceptive implant into her upper arm while her baby plays on her. They beckon me in. Privacy hardly seems to be an issue here.

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