IN the first nationally representative study of the incidence of abortion and the provi sion of postabortion care in T anzania, researchers found that clandestine abortion is common and is a major contributor to maternal death and injury.
The study, conducted by researchers at the U.S .- based G uttmacher Institute and T anzania’s National Institute for Medical Research and Muhimbili Unive rsity of Health and Allied Sciences, found that an estimated 405,000 abortions were performed in the country in 2013, the vas t majority of which were clandestine procedures that put w omen’s w ell-being at risk.
Because of an abortion law that is both highly restrictive and ambiguous, T anzanian w omen generally seek clandestine abortions that are unsafe.
Although pregnancy termination is restricted by law in T anzania, it is w idely practiced and almost alw ays unsafe, and contributes to the country’s high maternal morbidity and mortality.
Yet the majority of abortion-related deaths are preve ntable, as are the unintended pregnancies associated w ith abortion.
Better access to contraceptive s, more comprehensive post abortion care and greater avai lability of safe abortion servi ces w ithin the current legal framew ork are critical.
T anzania’s national abortion rate-36 per 1,000 w omen of reproductive age-is similar to that in other East African countries. Unsafe abortion represents one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in T anzania.
According to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, 16 per cent of maternal deaths are due to complications from abortion; this is comparable to the proportion of maternal deaths from unsafe abortion in Eastern Africa (18 p er cent).
T he T anzanian gove rnment must continue to address the issue of unsafe abortion to prevent maternal deaths and improve w omen’s health.
Increasing access to family planning, intensifying family planning education and offering a w ide range of methods and counselling can reduce the incidence of unsafe abortion and its conseq uences by preve nting unintended pregnancies.
It is critical to raise healthcare provi ders’ aw areness of the content and scope of the T anzanian abortion law and to eq uip them w ith appropriate training to provi de safe abortion servi ces w ithin legally permitted circumstances.