By Nyisom Fiyigon Dore
Hundreds of Nigerian women die every day of complications arising from unsafe abortions, an international NGO, Ipas, says.
Country Director of Ipas (Nigeria), Mr Lucky Palmer, said this on Sunday at a three-day “Media Training for Journalists on Women’s Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights/Global Gag Rule’’, in Keffi, Nasarawa State.
Palmer also disclosed that every eight minutes, a woman in a developing country died from such complications, adding that the figures were drawn from only those who visited hospitals for medical attention.
According to the Ipas representative in Nigeria, of the 85 million women who get pregnant annually, 40 million of them usually end up having abortions, with developing countries accounting for 98 per cent of the unsafe abortions.
He also said Africa and Latin America accounted for the highest number of unsafe abortions globally.
Palmer expressed sadness that Nigeria was yet to reform restrictive domestic laws and policies that placed women and girls’ health and lives at risk; as well as preventing them from exercising rights that the government had committed to under the international law.
The IPAs country representative added that in 2012 alone, 1.25 million Nigerian women had an abortion, doubling the number estimated in 1996.
He emphasised that unless urgent steps were taken, the number would keep increasing because only 16 per cent of all women of reproductive age were using any contraceptives, and just 11 per cent using modern methods.
“That results in almost 10 million unintended pregnancies, of which more than half end in an induced abortion,’’ he said.
The country director attributed this worrying global health challenge to the Global Gag Rule, noting that the training of journalists to help with awareness and advocacy, was one of the ways the organisation was exploring to tackle the issue.
He said a big burden was on the media to work closely with relevant organisations in curbing the menace.
Palmer urged the media to liaise with relevant agencies in advocating for the enforcement of laws and domestication of Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, to promote women’s sexual rights and health, create awareness, as well as educate the public on consequences of unsafe abortions.
Speaking on International Commitments to Women’s Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, one of the workshop facilitators, Mrs Doris Ikpeze, said women’s health was more than a health policy, it was an issue of human right which was constantly being violated by bad policies and laws, weak institutions and societal norms.
Ikpeze said that this was in spite of the ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol) of 2004 by Nigeria.
She said Nigeria had, by ratifying the protocol, effectively pledged to protect the rights of women and girls and guarantee their rights to sexual and reproductive health.
According to her, the protocol urges all ratifying countries to protect the reproductive rights of women by authorising medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother, or the life of the mother or the foetus.