The UN system for human reproduction research (HRP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, on Wednesday, published new data on the complications of unsafe abortions and short supply of potentially life-saving information on receiving quality care for these complications, in the latest edition of the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.
The WHO and HRP multi-country survey on abortion (MCS-A) gathered evidence on the provision, experience and quality of care, based on a study conducted across 17 countries in the African, Latin American and Caribbean regions. In a special supplement, it highlights work covering 11 sub-Saharan African countries.
“This supplement shows how far we still have to go in ensuring quality, respectful post-abortion care for all; it also proves how much we can learn when we commit to working together,” said Özge Tunçalp, Medical Officer at WHO and HRP, adding, “Across 11 countries, knowledge has been gained and research capacity has been strengthened.”
To ensure the health and well-being of girls and women who face abortion-related complications, it is crucial to understand what works in their clinical management and care. The newly published papers also explore the experiences of adolescents and women in accessing support in insecure environments.
“A stronger research community is better able to listen, ask and answer questions, working together for a future where every woman and girl achieves the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health and rights,” said Dr Tunçalp.
Through the WHO and HRP multi-country study on abortion, data was collected on over 23,000 women attending health facilities with abortion-related complications. While most had mild or moderate abortion-related complications, there were many who had severe or even life-threatening difficulties, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The study also highlights important actions that decision-makers in the sub-Saharan Africa region can take to address the issue, such as increasing access to high-quality abortion services at all levels of healthcare.
A comprehensive approach to abortion and post-abortion care includes clinical-care, self-care, task-sharing for providing care, and legal frameworks that supports health systems. These are all critical to delivering high quality care, which also incorporates access to a range of affordable and acceptable contraception options. Other steps include improving the quality of evidence-based post-abortion care in which healthcare providers use recommended practices; auditing the availability of equipment and supplies; and conducting clinical audits to better understand why health complications arise.
Identifying and using interventions that go beyond the health system are also recommended, such as addressing harmful beliefs held by healthcare providers; recognising and addressing constraints of health systems; and ensuring that girls and women are empowered.