Why sexual and reproductive law for east African countries is being resisted

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Anthony Idowu Ajayi, African Population and Health Research Center and Nicholas Okapu Etyang, African Population and Health Research Center

Six of the countries of the East African Community – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania – recently concluded public hearings on a new sexual and reproductive health bill. Proponents of the bill argue that it will improve access to sexual and reproductive health which, in turn, will improve other public health and development indicators such as maternal mortality and HIV infection rates. But the bill has faced fierce opposition since it was first tabled in 2017. The Conversation Africa’s Ina Skosana spoke to researchers Anthony Ajayi and Nicholas Etyang to unpack what the bill covers and where the sticking points are


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On This #IWD2022 Join CAMFED’s Global Sisterhood to Educate Young Girls

CAMFED is one the world’s leading organizations that advocates for and helps young girls in sub-Saharan Africa attain an education. CAMFED which stands for the Campaign for Female Education has to date supported 379,000 young girls with secondary school scholarships, one million girls attend primary school, and works with 6,787 partner schools across sub-Saharan Africa.

As we all know, girls who are deprived of an education are most likely tethered to a cycle of poverty for an entire lifetime. But girls who are afforded an education can leap out of poverty and and into the realms of economic development. They can take on better jobs, learn to save money, or become entrepreneurs. Women who are educated take better care of their individual environments and therefore take on climate change. And studies show when sub-Saharan women have an education, they fight for their daughter to have an education as well. They become stewards of passing down education and leaders in their communities.

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Poor knowledge and practice around oxytocin could put women in Nigeria at risk during childbirth

Chioma S. Ejekam, University of Lagos and Chimezie Anyakora, Pan Atlantic University Severe bleeding after childbirth – postpartum hemorrhage – is a leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality in middle-income countries. Oxytocin is an affordable and effective drug that’s recommended to prevent postpartum hemorrhage. But there are concerns about the quality of oxytocin available for use by healthcare workers in most low- and middle-income … Continue reading Poor knowledge and practice around oxytocin could put women in Nigeria at risk during childbirth

Ethiopia’s Tigray Region Is still Under Attack

If you have followed my travels or have read my blog over the years you know that Ethiopia is my favorite country in the world. There is something about the people, the culture, its beauty and the sheer size of the country I love.  Even though I love Ethiopia I have never been under a grand illusion that it is a unified country. There have been mass arrests and killings in Oromia, journalist and freedom fighter imprisonments, and now a civil war with mass atrocities and forced starvation against the people of the Tigray region. In fact, just this week reports of an airstrike on a market near Tigray’s capital Mekele killed at least 64 people and wounded over 100. 

Even as war is still happening in Ethiopia’s northernmost region, its national election officially wrapped on Monday without voting in Tigray, of course. Now, ballots are being tallied across the country with the likelihood that the current prime minister Abiy Ahmend will be reelected.  

Women selling baskets in Hawassa, Ethiopia.
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The Universal Human Right to an Identity from Birth Explained

By Caroline Kinsella, Advocacy and Communications Intern, White Ribbon Alliance 

One of the more hidden human rights abuses around the world is the fact that one billion people have no legal proof of identity. Alarmingly, UNICEF estimates that about one in four children  under age 5, or 166 million, are unregistered and without any trace that they exist.  Conversations about reducing global poverty and protecting the health and human rights of  mothers and newborns must include the challenges of birth registration.

A single piece of paper has the power to transform a person’s future. Birth certificates are  necessary to access government services, life-saving medical treatment, a nationality and age related legal protections. Legal proof of birth is often required to attend school and apply  to higher education, as well as open a bank account and vote. Many of the individuals without a  birth certificate today are children who were never registered at birth. In some cases, nobody  knows for decades that a child does not have a birth certificate. 

In Uganda, Senfuka Samuel, who goes by Sam, applied for a master’s degree program that  required a birth certificate. As he did not have one, Sam had to venture to the hospital where he  was born. There, he discovered that hospital records before the year 2000, including any  proof of his birth, were destroyed in the civil war. Traveling hundreds of miles over two  weeks, Sam spent his own money to first get issued a necessary ‘birth notification’ – a slip of  paper with birth details handwritten by a midwife – to later gain a new legal birth certificate. 

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[WATCH] Video Shows Horrors of Childbirth in Sierra Leone #MaternalHealth

The United Nations has designated Sierra Leone as the most dangerous place to have a baby. In fact, it has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world at 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births. On average, most women have at least six babies in Sierra Leone. In a previous post I mentioned the Aminata Maternal Foundation that helps pregnant women in Sierra Leone. An … Continue reading [WATCH] Video Shows Horrors of Childbirth in Sierra Leone #MaternalHealth

Radiotherapy will be required to treat cervical cancer in low-and-middle income countries

When I was in Zambia I saw ways in which nurses treat cervical cancer in low resource settings. Women who do not benefit from the HPV vaccine and still develop cervical cancer are often subject to visual inspection of the cancer typically with a digital camera followed by cryotherapy to freeze the diseased part of the cervix. Some researchers question whether this approach to cervical cancer treatment is effective in low-and-middle income countries. Globally, the cervical cancer burden falls disproportionately upon women in low and middle-income countries. In fact, approximately 90% of deaths from cervical cancer occur in these countries like Bolivia, Guinea, and Swaziland. Rates are highest in Central America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Melanesia.

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NEW: Drug That Prevents PostPartum Hemorrhage Added To WHO Essential Medicines List

As I have written many times before postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) or excessive uterine bleeding after childbirth is the leading cause of maternal mortality in low-and-middle income countries. The recommended drug to prevent PPH according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is oxytocin. When administered in its recommended dose it causes little to no side effects. Oxytocin, the WHO’s current gold standard therapy, however, must be refrigerated and administered by skilled health workers posing two obstacles to its wider use in low resource, tropical settings.

Some countries have approved misoprostol, an oral drug, to prevent PPH, but there are several concerns that its use can be misappropriated for abortions instead of used solely for PPH. The World Health Organization has listed misoprostol as an alternative to oxytocin if it is not available.

Now, another PPH preventative drug, carbetocin, has been added to the latest updated 2019 WHO Essential Medicines List. The announcement was made last week. Unlike oxytocin, even at high temperatures carbetocin remains effective. The recommendation is that carbetocin can be used when oxytocin is not available or if its quality is uncertain. Additionally, the cost must be comparable to oxytocin.

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Netflix Movie Reveals Grim Reality of Nigeria to Europe Sex Trafficking

Tens of thousands of young Nigerian girls and women leave their country every year with sincere hopes of starting a brand-new life in Europe where they believe they will be met with ample job and educational opportunities to provide for their families. That is what they are often told by “recruiters” in their home states who seek out vulnerable girls (sometimes as young as ten) and women to leave for Europe. Unfortunately, the promises made to them by human traffickers are empty promises. In reality, four out of every five Nigerian girls and women who survive the long, harrowing journey to Europe will end up in the sex trade.

We often read about these stories in the news, but cannot adequately understand the harsh lives these girls and women endure at the hands of their traffickers. Essentially held in modern slavery, the women and girls have a debt placed upon them that they must pay off by prostituting themselves or else face dire consequences, sometimes fatal. Not only are they faced with threats by their Nigerian madams, they are also exploited in the streets where they are susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases, rapes, and physical violence. Wanting to tell these stories, Austrian filmmaker Sudabeh Mortezai wrote and directed Joy, an award-winning drama that shows the harsh and complex realities of these women and girls’ lives as prostitutes.

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Maximize Traveling for Good While Minimizing Your Footprint

There is a lot of need in the world and it takes a special person who willingly gets on a plane to aid communities that can use a helping hand from added resources (monetary and otherwise) to expertise, to volunteering. While traveling for good is on the proverbial bucket list for many, more thought should go into how simply being present in indigenous communities sometimes leaves unintentional impressions, ecological footprints, as well as unfair travel practices.

Luckily, there are more NGOs, social enterprises, and businesses that are taking better tourism practices into consideration and incorporating them into their volunteering and travel opportunities. One such NGO that is doing this is United for Hope that works in India. United for Hope is an NGO with the mission to transform rural India into a place of opportunity and prosperity through a Smart Village approach.

United for Hope launched their model Smart Village in Tirmasahun, in the District of Kushinagar, in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, and are currently running several projects in the areas of education, social enterprises (including social tourism) and community services.


One of the latest additions to their education projects is menstrual hygiene awareness and gender sensitivity workshops, targeting both girls and boys in 100 Government Schools in the area where they operate.

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BioLite Brightens East Africa One Home at a Time

I have visited enough traditional family huts and homes in rural Africa to know that light and power are precious commodities. When the last bit of sun streams through the windows and doors in the evenings, the only recourse for light again is when the sun shines brightly in the morning. That is a long time to read, write, cook, and get ready for the next day by mere firelight. When not fixed on an electrical grid (which aren’t very reliable themselves), the only real, viable opportunity for light and energy is through solar power.

A newly released short film by BioLite Run Home shows how powerful their products are to light households in the absence of electricity.  In fact, BioLite is on a mission to “bring energy everywhere”. In the film, BioLite features professional Kenyan marathon runner and mother Jane Kibii. Through her race earnings, Kibii has earned enough money to purchase a family home. Unfortunately, the home she built for her parents is far from the electrical grid.

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Kenya’s Marie Stopes ban may drive more women to unsafe abortions

According to the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, they banned abortion services provided by Marie Stopes following complaints from the general public. 

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Restrictive laws mean that women resort to unsafe means. jbdodane/Flickr

Michael Mutua, African Population and Health Research Center

The Kenyan Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board has stopped the NGO Marie Stopes International from performing abortions in Kenya. Marie Stopes is a global organisation that provides contraception and safe abortion to women in urban and rural communities. Abortion is illegal in Kenya, unless a trained medical professional judges that there’s a need for emergency treatment, or that a woman’s life or health is in danger.

The Conversation Africa’s Moina Spooner spoke to Michael Mutua about the Marie Stopes ban and its implications.

How did the ban come about?

According to the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, they banned abortion services provided by Marie Stopes following complaints from the general public. The public claimed the organisation was running pro-choice media campaigns. These adverts specifically sought to provide women with a solution when faced with crisis pregnancies.

The adverts were also criticised by the Kenya Film Classification Board, which ordered Marie Stopes to pull them down for allegedly promoting abortion.

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Suffering in silence: how Kenyan women live with profound childbirth injuries

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Kathomi Gatwiri, Southern Cross University

Sasha is 22-years-old. She was married off when she was just nine and by the time she was 11, she was pregnant with her first child, and unprepared for childbirth.

So when labor came, in the middle of the night – in her geographically isolated village in rural Kenya – she was unaware of the painful fate awaiting her.

During childbirth, the baby’s head was too big to fit through Sasha’s pelvis, causing the baby to get stuck in her birthing canal. Traditional birth attendants tried their best to help Sasha but they were not skilled enough to handle the complications. She needed surgery, and quickly. But because she could not access emergency obstetric services, she spent the next six days trying to push out the baby that was stuck inside of her.

In the end, Sasha delivered a dead, rotten baby in macerated form. She was not only in grief of her lost child, but was also traumatized by her experience which left her with profound injuries and a double obstetric vaginal fistula.

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Kenya Maternity Fee Waiver is Great – But There are Still Gaps in the Policy

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Kenya’s pregnancy policy hasn’t addressed the inequalities between rich and poor.
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Estelle Monique Sidze, African Population and Health Research Center

About 21 pregnant women die every day in Kenya due to complications from childbirth. That’s equivalent to two 10-seater commuter micro minibuses, known as matatus, crashing every day with the loss of all the passengers on board.

Pregnant women in Kenya die because they either do not receive appropriate care during pregnancy or are unable to deliver with the help of skilled health attendants.

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Why Kenya Needs to Adopt ‘Milk Banks’ to Reduce Infant Deaths

Elizabeth Kimani-Murage, Brown University

Mother’s milk has an enormous impact on child survival. While in Kenya it has improved over the past decade, the number of children who die before five years remains significant. The rate has decreased from 115 per 1000 live births in 2003 to 52 in 2014.

Neighbors Rwanda (2008), Tanzania (2012) and Uganda (2011) have recorded 50, 66 and 65 deaths per 1,000 live births for children below five years, respectively.

The main causes of childhood deaths are infections, preterm births and lack of sufficient oxygen, or asphyxia.

Breastfeeding infants on breast milk alone until they are six months old has been shown to reduce child mortality. When mothers can’t provide their own milk, the next best alternative is donor milk from other women. Access to “human milk banks” gives vulnerable infants, without access to their mother’s own milk, a healthy start to life.

The milk bank concept was initiated in Vienna in 1909 and was preceded by a century old practice of wet nursing – a mother breastfeeding another mother’s child.

Since then, over 500 human milk banks have been established in more than 37 countries globally in developed and developing countries. The pioneer countries include Brazil, South Africa, India, Canada, Japan and France.

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