April 27, 2015 / 7:09 PM / 4 years ago

Tanzanian women endangered by illegal abortions

Dar es Salaam (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Lydia Daudi saw no other choice than to end her six-week pregnancy to spare her deeply religious family from the shame of a pregnancy before marriage.

With the help of a friend, the 26-year-old student at the College of Business Education secretly visited a clinic that provides illegal abortions.

“I was very scared and shocked because it was my first time to do such a thing,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The interview was arranged by a Dar es Salaam-based group that protects women’s rights and declined to be identified.

Abortion is illegal in Tanzania except to save a woman’s life and is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

In Tanzania and other parts of East Africa, the estimated number of unsafe abortions was 2.4 million in 2008, or 36 unsafe abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age—the highest regional unsafe abortion rate in Africa, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive health issues.

Illegal abortions in Tanzania have been documented in a number of studies which suggest that almost 60 percent of women admitted to public hospitals with a suspected miscarriage had, in fact, undergone an abortion.

Daudi said when she and her friend arrived at the clinic, she was hurriedly taken to a room where she met a man who appeared to be a doctor, dressed in a white coat with a stethoscope slung across his shoulders.

“I told him that I wanted to have an abortion and that I counted on him to help me,” she said.

Daudi said the doctor told her that the procedure she was requesting was illegal but he could be of assistance if she agreed to pay 50,000 Tanzanian shillings ($26).

The abortionist, who was assisted by a female nurse, asked Daudi to undress and lie on a bed in the middle of the room.

“He gave me a pill to swallow. Then he put a thick jelly in my vagina and inserted a metal object fitted with a gauze,” which he seemed to use to scrape inside her uterus, she said.

According to Daudi, it was a quick but painful procedure. She was given antibiotics and told to wear a sanitary pad to absorb bleeding.

A few days later Daudi was bleeding heavily and her mother, unaware of the abortion, rushed her to the Marie Stopes Hospital, which specializes in reproductive health. Doctors examined her and confirmed she had undergone an incomplete abortion.

“I was feeling severe pain in the lower parts of my belly while constantly discharging thick blood,” she said. After doctors removed infected tissue from her uterus, her condition improved.

Approximately 22 million unsafe abortions take place worldwide, according to a 2015 study by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Abortions and childbirth are among the greatest dangers faced by women in Tanzania. The country has one of world’s highest maternal mortality rates at 454 per 100,000 live births.

Some of the deaths are due to abortion-related complications, according to the country’s ministry of health and social welfare.

($1 = 1,935 Tanzanian shillings)

($1 = 1,935.0000 Tanzanian shillings)

(1 Tanzanian shilling = $0.0005)

(This version of the story fixes the dateline)

Reporting by Kizito Makoye, Editing by Lisa Anderson

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