Sierra leone : Maternal mortality
Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015.
According to the World Health Organization and the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of abortions worldwide are unsafe, and about 98 percent happen in the developing world.
The United Nations and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has asked Sierra Leone "to respect its obligations under international and regional human rights law by ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for women, including maternal healthcare and access to all methods of contraception".
The ACHPR has also launched a campaign asking those African countries that haven’t already done so to decriminalise abortion. Dr Rowland Taylor is an obstetrician gynaecologist at the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital, in Freetown.
He says that, on average, two women a week come in to see him with complications resulting from an unsafe abortion. Treating post-abortion complications can be expensive, he says, particularly in the most severe cases.
In contrast, he says, safe abortions using manual vacuum aspiration can be a relatively simple procedure once somebody is trained in the method. One of the main side effects women experience after an unsafe abortion is bleeding. Parts of the foetus are often left in the uterus. Sometimes, Taylor says, he has to open the abdominal cavity due to infection and some complications can even lead to infertility. It is, he stresses, a public health issue that has nothing to do with religion or ethics. He recalls one nursing student who came in after an unsafe abortion. "She was bleeding from her vagina and the blood was black," the doctor recalls.
"That’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone bleeding with the blood black. She died in front of my office door. Her head just slumped back in her wheelchair. She was 24 years old."
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