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Underage abortions rock Lesotho hospital admissions

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…UN says 35.7% of hospitals admissions in Lesotho are due to Abortions  

Ntsoaki Motaung

A United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report by Dr Marc Derveeuw indicates that 35.71% of all hospitals admissions in Lesotho are due to abortions amongst children aged 10 to 14 years.

This is revealed in the State of the World Population 2022 with the theme “Seeing the Unseen” by the UNFPA launched on Friday April 29, 2022.

Derveeuw indicates in the report that the findings on abortions in Lesotho were established with the help of the Ministry of Health although the data is still raw and yet to be analysed.

“We looked at over 17, 000 admissions in wards, maternity, OPDs also admissions for obstetric and gynecological admissions due to abortion for the years 2019 to 2021 and we looked at the proportions which were related to induced or spontaneous abortions,” he said.

He said “nearly 36% (35.71%) amongst the ages of 10 to 14 is a percentage of admissions in the hospitals and maternities, with those in the ages between 15 to 19 years accounting for is 8.17%, while for 20-24 year-olds it is 10.06%, 25-49 ages account for 15.53% and 50+ adults for 8.93%.”

The report further posits that the 35.71% is a result of data collected for the past three years looking specifically on the first three months of the year “…and there has been consistency in the data collection.

“The data was grouped with women of reproductive age that is 15 to 49 years and we found that 14, 410 hospital or admission records and of those 12.35% were due to induced abortion or a spontaneous abortion also. There are a lot of illegal abortions going on in Lesotho.”

The study indicates that the district with the highest numbers in the phenomenon is Mohale’s Hoek with 154 cases of admissions followed by Maseru with 110 cases then Berea with 98 while Mafeteng comes at distant fourth with 92 cases. 

Meanwhile, speaking at the event, Minister of Development Planning Selibe Mochoboroane pointed out that the figures are a reflection of the insurgence of unplanned pregnancies.

“This has caused numerous mortalities of which maternal is predominant with 618 per 100 000 births. Moreover, destitution and orphan-hood are critical effects due to maternal mortality brought about by unintended pregnancy. Finally, there is an issue of school dropouts due to unintended pregnancy to the girls,” he said.

He said the launch of the report comes at an opportune time when Lesotho has just embarked on the development of the third edition of the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP III). Saying the situation presents an opportunity for to reflect on the progress made in the past 30 years of improving and investing in the lives of women, girls and young people and also how Basotho can work together to achieve sustainable development.

Mochoboroane indicated that the report further purports an evident lack of sexual and reproductive health care and information, harmful norms and stigma surrounding women controlling their own fertility and bodies, sexual violence, poverty and stalled economic development “and finally gender inequality are salient contributing factors to the unintended pregnancy problem”.

For her part, National AIDS Commission (NAC) Strategic Information Manager Refiloe Mpholo pointed to the risk of HIV infection prevalence at the wake of the stated which indicates rampant unprotected sex hence unintended pregnancy which is also linked to HIV infection risk.

She said with pregnancies unintended there are some negative health outcomes like sexually transmitted infections including HIV.

“Unintended pregnancy means unprotected sex, unprotected sex for individuals with unknown HIV status or known HIV positive status could be a proxy for new HIV infections.

“With younger generation being the mostly HIV infected in the midst of social and economic barriers which have been proven to be drivers of new infections, Lesotho will be challenged to meet the 2030 global targets of zero new HIV infections,” she said.

Contacted for a comment on the impact of the lawlessness of abortion to the souring figures, Chairman of a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on the Social Cluster Fako Moshoeshoe, said as a committee they have already begun advocating for the legalization of abortion in the country.

“We advocate for safe abortions and a safe one can only be done when it is legal. Were we in a better financial climate, we would have already begun with our advocacy journey going out into communities to educate people about the advantages of safe abortion and the disadvantages of unsafe abortion,” he said.    

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