Ministry of Health and Sanitation and Ipas report on unsafe abortion in Sierra Leone finds support from nation’s First Lady

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sierra Leone's First Lady

Last month, Sierra Leone’s First Lady Sia Nyama Koroma publicly threw her support behind efforts to prevent deaths and injuries from unsafe abortion in her country—the nation with the fourth highest maternal mortality ratio in the world.  

“Safe, legal abortion would preserve women’s health and save their lives,” she said at a well-attended meeting to share the combined results of three studies examining the impact of unsafe abortion, produced by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) in partnership with Ipas.

The consolidated report includes results from three assessments. The first assessment sought input from stakeholders, health providers and the public, while the other two focused on the burden of unsafe abortion on women and the health system. Some highlights from the reports include:

  • Unwanted pregnancies are a problem in all regions of Sierra Leone.
  • A majority of Sierra Leoneans think the abortion law, a relic from 1861, is outdated and restrictive and would like to see the government liberalize the abortion law as part of its effort to reduce unsafe abortions.
  • Treating postabortion complications in Sierra Leone is expensive, particularly with severe cases. The government could save hundreds of thousands (USD) by providing safe abortion services using recommended methods, like manual vacuum aspiration.

The First Lady emphasized that the negative effects of unsafe abortion impact everyone in society, including individual women and families and the public health system. “The resulting tragic loss of life is entirely preventable. Unwanted pregnancies have been identified as a significant problem in all regions of Sierra Leone, contributing to thousands of maternal deaths and injuries, infertility, poverty and orphaned children,” she said.

Ipas has been working in Sierra Leone since 2010, partnering with the MOHS and other key government and nongovernmental actors to identify ways to curb unsafe abortion and improve women’s reproductive health care.

“These studies have identified important information that has been missing in the maternal health picture in Sierra Leone. Policymakers have been quick to recognize the opportunity to bring about positive change by working to eliminate unsafe abortion,” says Valerie Tucker, Ipas Sierra Leone policy associate.