One of the lead campaigners for People’s Alliance for Reproductive Health Advocacy (PARHA), the Director of Amnesty International Sierra Leone, Solomon Sogbandi has emphasized that Maternal Mortality remains a major concern in Sierra Leone.
He said recent statistics show that maternal mortality accounts for 36 percent of all deaths among women age 15-49 in the country.
“This makes Sierra Leone one of the countries in the world with the highest life-time risk of women dying during pregnancy or childbirth.”
Sogbandi extend appreciation on the stride taken by government with assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners in 2015 to develop the National Death Surveillance and Response Guidelines which resulted in the establishment of District Level Material Death Surveillance and Response Committees nationwide. These committees he added examine the medical and non-medical factors contributing to maternal death.
“Maternal mortality in Sierra Leone is one of the highest in the world and complications from unsafe aborting are of the leading causes.”
Maternal mortality is defined by the United National Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnant.
“…this definition encapsulates maternal death caused by the unsafe termination of pregnancy or unsafe abortion. Sierra Leone’s Maternal mortality rates are among some of the worst in the world,” he noted.
Currently, Sierra Leone has the highest reported maternal mortality ratio in the world, with 1,360 mothers dying for every 100,000 live births (WHO,2015) (Courtesy of Draft revised Cabinet on Reproductive Health Bill).
He emphasized further that unsafe abortions are particularly common among teenage girls, noting that 25% of maternal deaths are due to unsafe abortion among adolescents.
“Unsafe abortion is prevalent among young women in Sierra Leone due to many factors including but not limited to stigma and societal pressure. Lack of resources and a lack of a conducive legal and policy environment. Finally, a lack of access to family planning services, adequate medical care and delivery care and delivery services are drivers of higher material mortality rates especially in teens,” he highlighted.
He maintained that the current Abortion Act dates from 1861, a century before Sierra Leone became independent. The old law banned abortion except when it was necessary to save a woman’s life, and people have been imprisoned for providing abortion services.
“But of course, people still seek ways to end pregnancies. In Sierra Leone, everyone knows someone who has been affected in some way by unsafe abortion. People have lost wives, daughters, and loved ones,” he said.
He said that they want to see unsafe abortion addressed through law reform.