ABOUT 22 million unsafe abortions are estimated to take place worldwide each year, almost all in developing countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

In light of International Safe Abortions day on Wednesday, the staggering numbers of women who undergo unsafe abortions and are killed have come in to focus, with an estimated 220 deaths recorded for every 100 000 unsafe abortions in developing regions and 520 deaths per 100 000 unsafe abortions in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mortality from unsafe abortions disproportionately affects women in Africa.

While the continent accounts for 29 percent of all unsafe abortions, it sees 62 percent of unsafe abortion-related deaths.

WHO says around five million women are admitted to hospital as a result of unsafe abortion every year in developing countries, while more than three million women who have complications following unsafe abortion do not receive care.

Project Manager Ellen Hagerman of Hivos, an international organisation that seeks new solutions to persistent global issues said stigma is a driver globally for women who are forced to seek unsafe abortions.

“Stigma can occur at the level of the individual up to the policy maker and the health care provider and can be linked to religious and ethical beliefs,” she said.

She said she was aware of an incident in KwaZulu-Natal where health care workers prayed before they were about to perform the abortion.

Women’s Clinic Marie Stopes Marketing and Communications Co-ordinator Whitney Chinogwenya said the approach to addressing this issue is multi-faceted and includes improvement in service delivery, late reporting of pregnancy, gender-based violence and stigma.

“Much more needs to be done to make clear that the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act entitles women in South Africa to safe abortion services, as stigma often drives women to go the unsafe route,” she said.

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