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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Why Family Planning Matters for Maternal Deaths and Child Survival

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Contraception empowers women to plan the number of children they will have.

Tizta Tilahun Degfie, African Population and Health Research Center

Family planning improves child survival and reduces maternal deaths. But the uptake of family planning in Africa is only 33%, nearly half the world average of 64%. The contraceptive prevalence rate in African countries is considerably low despite an increase in demand.

Niger has one of the highest fertility rates globally. Women of reproductive age have, on average, eight children. Niger has a maternal mortality ratio of 553 per 100,000 live births and an under-five mortality rate of 104 per 1000 live births. Mauritius has the lowest child mortality rate in Africa at 12 per 1,000 live births.

In Niger, 13% of children under five years die from various illnesses. The country is one of the top five that account for half of these deaths in the world.

The low provision of family planning across sub-Saharan Africa is cited as one of the main reasons for the region’s high maternal mortality rates. A lack of family planning leads to unintended pregnancies and often means that women deliver their babies with very low skilled assistance. This, in turn, pushes up the rate of newborn deaths.

Access to family planning services, particularly in developing countries, should be improved.

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Will Trump’s Global Family Planning Cuts Cause Side Effects?

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Actress and U.N. Population Fund Goodwill Ambassador Ashley Judd visited a refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan in 2016.
AP Photo/Raad Adayleh


Written by Rachel Sullivan Robinson
, American University School of International Service

President Donald Trump is leading an assault on family planning around the world.

Most recently, his administration cut off U.S. contributions to the United Nations Population Fund, which provides and funds reproductive health services in poor countries. That follows his reinstatement of what’s known as the “global gag rule,” the executive order enacted by all Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan barring foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that receive U.S. funding from even mentioning abortion.

But Trump wants to go even further than his GOP predecessors by slashing spending on global health efforts funded through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Deeper family planning retrenchment would, however, put millions of lives at risk.

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Why Mothers Aren’t Accessing Antenatal Care Early in Their Pregnancies

Anja Smith, Stellenbosch University

South Africa has extremely high maternal mortality levels. This is true when compared with developed countries as well as other developing countries.

According to the World Health Organisation, for every 100,000 live births in the country in 2015, 138 women died due to pregnancy and childbirth complications. In Sweden, fewer than five women die for every 100,000 live births. In Brazil, the estimate is 44 women for every 100,000 live births.

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Why a new vaginal ring could be a game-changer in HIV prevention

Thesla Palanee-Phillips, University of the Witwatersrand
The results of the two studies showing that a vaginal ring can help reduce the risk HIV infection among women is being hailed as an important HIV prevention breakthrough.

Launched four years ago, the two clinical trials, known as ASPIRE and The Ring Study, set out to determine how safe and effective the ring was in prevention of HIV infection in women. The ring, which is used for a month at a time, contains an antiretroviral drug called dapivirine that acts by blocking HIV from multiplying.

The studies enrolled close to 4500 women aged 18 to 45 in South Africa, Uganda, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Each study found that the ring helps reduce the risk of HIV infection in women. In ASPIRE, the ring reduced the risk of HIV infection by 27% overall. In The Ring Study, infections were reduced by 31% overall.

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Save the Children Sounds Alarm on Plight of the World’s Urban Poor

When you think about very low- and middle-income countries you might assume that the poor in deep rural pockets in these countries have the highest chance for maternal and infant mortality. That isn’t the case according to Save the Children’s latest State of the World’s Mothers report released today.

The report says that it is the urban poor in countries like Haiti, Somalia, Niger and Mali, for example, who are suffering the most and have less access to health care, nutrition services, sanitation and clean water. Even as child mortality has decreased by 49 percent since 1990, the numbers do not fully tell the entire story. While resources have successfully helped the rural populations, the urban poor continue to suffer from a lack of overall services that will allow them to live and thrive.

“Our new report reveals a devastating child survival divide between the haves and have-nots, telling a tale of two cities among urban communities around the world, including the United States,” said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children in a statemtn. “For babies born in the big city, it’s survival of the richest.”

New data says there are 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. 860 million people live in urban slums in big cities like Delhi, Nairobi, Rio, and Johannesburg where the disparity between the rich and poor is incredibly stark. In fact, poor children in urban areas are two times more likely to die than their richer peers. In some countries, poor children are up to five times more likely to die before the age of five than their peers in a much higher income bracket.

Slum area - Addis Ababa
Slum area – Addis Ababa

Urban slums continue to grow because poor migrants from rural areas seek jobs in cities. This causes squatter communities and slum-dwelling as well as a perpetual cycle of poverty. These migrants often believe that it is better to live in crowded slums in the city than in their rural home towns because they can at least find work. The tradeoff, however, comes in the form of poor living conditions.

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41 Maternal Health Organizations to Follow and Support #IntlMHDay

Today is the 2nd annual International Day of Maternal Health and Rights which calls attention to and demands action for the right of every woman to respectful maternity care no matter where she lives in the world. This is critical because a woman dies in childbirth every two minutes totalling nearly 300,000 maternal deaths each year. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths are wholly preventable.

Many pregnant women are also subject to excessive, disrespectful care including verbal and physical abuse during pregnancy and childbirth as well as denial of care and demands for payment before care.  As these scenarios continue more awareness needs to be made about quality, respectful care for every pregnant woman. It’s their right!

In honor of International Day of Maternal Health and Rights we put together a list of 41 maternal health organizations and organizations that work on other global health efforts of which maternal health is one. Please support and follow them. If we missed your organization, please email us at info@mombloggersforsocialgood.com with your Twitter handle. We plan to make an additional list in the coming weeks.

1. aroadlesstravelled @ARLTafric: Working with nomadic pastoralist communities in Ethiopia & Kenya to improve maternal & child health.

2. ARROW ‏@ARROW_Women: Championing Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights #SRHR #SRHR4all

3. CAN-MNCH @CAN_MNCH: Over 80 organizations working to improve the lives of women, babies and children in over 1,000 regions around the world. Team Canada!

4. CARE(care.org) @CARE: CARE fights global poverty by empowering girls and women. Visit http://CARE.org and join us.

5. CHANGE ‏@genderhealth: The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) works to advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls worldwide.

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IN PHOTOS: Family Planning from Addis Ababa to Johannesburg

People the world over come here every day looking for family planning information. Knowing that, I have decided to create a compendium post of sorts about everything I have learned and seen about family planning in my travels to and reporting from sub-Saharan Africa over the past few years.

I first learned about the critical importance of family planning when I covered the London Family Planning Summit a few years ago. Melinda Gates, along with key partners, called on governments and civil society to lay out a strategic plan to provide family planning services and contraceptives to 120 million underserved women in low-and middle-income countries.  Currently there are 222 million women around the world who would like to space or delay their pregnancies.

Read the current Family Planning 2020 Progress Report with full commitments since the 2012 Summit. Undoubtedly there is a long way to go to reach the unmet need for modern contraceptives, but the initial commitments have been promising. $1.3 billion USD in funding for family planning was delivered in 2013 enabling 8.4 more women and girls to have access to modern contraceptives.

At the London Summit, I will remember the commitments read by country representatives. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyeseus, former Minister of Health of Ethiopia, stood out. He said, “Inaction is no longer an option. It’s not what we promise today, but what we do when we get back home.”

Ethiopia Commitments

Below are photos of family planning services and programs as well as modern contraceptives from Addis Ababa, Lusaka, Johannesburg and Dar es Salaam.

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Ethiopian Health Workers Receive Influx of Family Planning Training

In sub-Saharan Africa, 49 million women use traditional methods of family of no family planning methods at all. In Ethiopia, 39.1 percent of women use modern contraceptives up from 15 percent in 2005. The current low rate of contraceptive use in Ethiopia is a result of a combination of factors: cultural biases as well as a lack of trained health workers that can reach every woman … Continue reading Ethiopian Health Workers Receive Influx of Family Planning Training

Join Ashley Judd In Supporting Health Workers in Haiti

By Ashley Judd, PSI Global Ambassador Virgila is more charismatic and animated than most actors I know. She’s a PSI-trained health worker on the outskirts of Port Au Prince, Haiti. And she’s passionate about her work. She goes door-to-door educating women about the benefits of reversible contraception like the IUD. Giving birth is dangerous business for Haiti’s poor, who suffer the highest maternal mortality rate … Continue reading Join Ashley Judd In Supporting Health Workers in Haiti

How PSI Reinforces Positive Reproductive Health Messaging Through Branding, Edutainment

In Tanzania, orange has increasingly become the recognized color of family planning and reproductive health services. Population Services International’s orange Familia brand is quite common in most regions of this coastal country of 49 million. PSI, a global non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health of people in the developing world, has consistently and effectively branded everything in its nationwide Familia social franchise network since it began in 2009 with unforgettable orange and its semi-cursive Familia logo that bears a heart at the beginning of its name. All aspects of the Familia social franchise network from its clinics’ signage to the clothing of its health workers to its condom brand that claims in part 80% of Tanzania’s condom market and its health education booklets, all get PSI’s extensive branding treatment. The result: PSI Tanzania was able to serve 119,000 clients in 2013 through Familia via word of mouth and effective marketing.

Familia

Familia is PSI’s social franchise network of over 260 private sector clinics across 23 regions that primarily provides family planning, cervical cancer and maternal health services as well as health services for children under the age of five in urban and peri-urban community settings in Tanzania.  Tanzania’s most remote areas are serviced by PSI outreach teams.

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Traveling to Tanzania With PSI, IntraHealth International, and Mandy Moore

Over the years I have had the distinct privilege of meeting health workers around the world from Ethiopia and Kenya to Tanzania and South Africa to India and Brazil. Health workers, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, are the unequivocal backbone of health systems that can oftentimes be severely taxed due to the overwhelming number of people who rely on them for care to the disarray of health systems’ frameworks coupled with a dismal lack of financial allocations to national health care.

Health WorkersFrontline health workers I have met throughout the years. Left to right: Angawadi workers in Delhi, a family planning health worker in Johannesburg, a member of the Health Development Army in Hawassa, Ethiopia, hospital administrators in Lusaka, Zambia, and nurses in Morogoro, Tanzania.

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Uganda Holds First National Family Planning Conference

While her husband holds their youngest child, Twesigye Christente waits to receive a long-acting contraceptive at the Kinaaba Health Center II. Photo: UNFPA/Omar Gharzeddine This week Uganda held its first national family planning conference in Kampala. This is particularly significant because family planning has not always been pressing on the agenda of Uganda’s longtime president, Yoweri Museveni. In fact, under Museveni’s 30 year leadership, Uganda’s population more than … Continue reading Uganda Holds First National Family Planning Conference

Rwanda Leads the World in Women Lawmakers

By Elaine Tucci Elaine Tucci is the Co-Founder and CEO of Women Lead to Change http://www.womenleadtochange.org As the world learns more about the promise of women to bring peace, prosperity and economic well-being to nations, Rwanda has become a poster child of this promise. Thriving after one of the most brutal genocides in history, today Rwanda is referred to as the heart of the African … Continue reading Rwanda Leads the World in Women Lawmakers

10 Top Tweets from the Family Planning Conference: Day 2

Choosing ten top tweets from day two of the International Conference on Family Planning wasn’t easy.  Thousands of experts, researchers, those representing NGOs, and stakeholders are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this week at the largest conference on family planning and reproductive health. Below are ten tweets we feel are informative and provide fantastic discussion points about the issues and solutions for family planning access and … Continue reading 10 Top Tweets from the Family Planning Conference: Day 2