Ministry of Health Launches New Report: The Costs of Treating Complications of Unsafe Abortion in Public Health Facilities in Kenya

November 8, 2018

Financial cost of treating of unsafe abortion complications in public health facilities found to be overwhelming

Nairobi, Kenya. (28 February, 2018):  A nationwide study on the incidence of abortion in Kenya conducted by the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Ipas, shows that nearly half a million induced abortions—unsafe for the most part—occurred in Kenya in 2012, resulting in medical complications, most of which were treated in public health facilities.

The report shows the staggeringly high costs of managing complications of unsafe abortion in public health facilities in Kenya.  Many complications from unsafe abortion were categorized as emergencies and required extended hospital stays, intensive care, and attendance by highly skilled health providers.

The average treatment time for complications from an unsafe abortion was 7.4 hours of health care personnel time. This time ranged from 5.5 hours for mild complications to 6.7 hours for moderate complications, and up to 12.4 hours for the treatment of severe complications, involving procedures such as pelvis abscess drainage or cervical/vaginal tear repair.

“The study shows that there is a definite strain on the public health system when scarce human and financial resources are diverted to treating patients with severe complications due to an induced—and often unsafe—abortion.  This hinders medical efforts to provide women and girls with good maternal health care,” says Hailemichael Gebreselassie, senior researcher at Ipas.

Kenya has a long way to go before achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3: a reduction in its maternal mortality rate to 70 deaths per 100,000 live births. Complications from unsafe abortion are a major contributor to maternal mortality in Kenya, which means a new approach is needed to responding to the burden of treatment of preventable deaths.

A first critical step to respond to the crisis of unsafe abortion in Kenya is generating the political will needed to strengthen governmental institutions and agencies mandated to protect women’s health, to implement life-saving measures within the limits of the law.

Such measures include promoting women’s access to quality post-abortion care, including post-abortion family planning counseling – not just in terms of access to services and a range of options for family planning but also education about which method is the right choice.

“Only when both women and men have access to the best possible information about the most effective methods of contraception, especially long-acting reversible contraceptives, can Kenya begin to make sustained progress in limiting the numbers of unsafe abortions that occur, and the complications that arise from such unsafe procedures,” said Dr. Estelle Sidze, Associate Research Scientist at APHRC.

The study relies on nationally representative primary and secondary data drawn from individual and panel interviews with experienced providers of post-abortion care, data on the direct costs including health care provider time, drugs, and supplies and secondary data on women hospitalized in public health facilities for complications of induced abortion.