Malawi’s abortion law is one of the most restrictive in Africa, as it only permits termination of pregnancy to save a woman’s life. This leads many women and girls to end unwanted pregnancies in unsafe, clandestine settings. Unsafe abortion accounts for 18% of maternal deaths in Malawi, and the health system also treats high numbers of women with complications from unsafe abortion.
Since 2005, Ipas has worked with the government and other partners in Malawi to improve treatment for abortion-related complications at public health facilities and to build an advocacy movement that includes broad-based support for improved access to safe abortion care. In 2009, Ipas Malawi collaborated with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization to conduct a national strategic assessment of abortion in the country. Informed by the findings of the assessment, in 2010 Ipas helped to establish the Coalition for Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (COPUA), which educates the public on unsafe abortion and builds grassroots momentum for law reform. COPUA’s members include community-based organizations, youth-focused non-governmental organizations, policymakers, traditional leaders and others, and its membership has nearly tripled in size since its inception. The coalition engages with the community through a wide range of activities, including workshops, educational dramas and radio programs.
Impact in 2022
community leaders trained on importance of abortion rights and access
advocates trained to help youth seeking sexual and reproductive health information
staff from community-based organizations trained to advocate for sexual and reproductive health services in their communities
In Malawi, youth educators train chiefs to protect reproductive health during the pandemic
In Malawi, Ipas-trained youth educators on sexual and reproductive health and rights are meeting with chiefs (local community leaders) in Ndirande to help them understand how to prevent unintended pregnancies in their communities. The youth educators also work with them to protect sexual and reproductive health services as essential services that must continue during the COVID-19 pandemic. In parts of Malawi, unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion among young people appears to be rising sharply due to COVID-19 and its impact on communities.
Meet Tisungane Sitima, Malawi youth activist working to safeguard reproductive health services during COVID-19
A youth-led call for abortion law reform
Young people in Malawi are calling for the protection of sexual and reproductive health care as an essential service during the coronavirus pandemic—and also are asking lawmakers to expedite abortion law reform to ensure young people’s access to safe abortion care.
Ipas Malawi: 2019-2023 Strategic Plan
Working with women leaders
Ipas Malawi joined forces with local partners in Feb. 2020 for a session with the Women’s Caucus of the Malawi Parliament to discuss the role of women leaders and the importance of addressing gender and power imbalances in the country. Ipas and partners will be providing women parliamentarians with technical information to support their deliberation on bills that will drive gender-focused agenda—including a draft bill that would expand legal access to abortion.
In the News
Ipas study uncovers unsafe abortion crisis, calls for comprehensive RH services, writes Meclina Chirwa.
“The lack of reproductive justice caused by the failure to expand access to safe abortion and contraception is contributing to the problem,” stated Ipas Africa Southern Region Health Systems Advisor, Christopher Kandionamaso.
Read the full story: Research reveals alarming rates of unsafe abortions in Malawi – The AfricaBrief