Nairobi — Young girls in Kenya continue to procure unsafe abortions with 16 percent of them involving women below 20 years of age, according to the Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance.
A member of the alliance, Joseph Karanja who is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Nairobi said on Wednesday that women between the ages of 20 and 34 accounted for another 73 percent of abortions in Kenya.
He attributed this to the lack of sexuality and abstinence education to adolescents.
"Low access to contraceptives and contraceptive choices (among the older age group) is leading to many unplanned pregnancies that are resulting in unsafe abortions," he noted.
In Suba district alone, he said, 80 percent of all unsafe abortions involve girls below the age of 20.
According to the World Health Organisation, unsafe abortion is a procedure for terminating an unwanted pregnancy either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment lacking the minimal medical standards or both.
Professor Karanja also said studies had shown that young girls in Kenya were more afraid of carrying a pregnancy to term than contracting sexually transmitted infections like HIV/AIDS.
"When we talk to some of these girls they say with pregnancy, most people disown you including parents and it is seen as shameful but with HIV you get all the support, counselling and even sometimes get advocacy jobs. So they see that with HIV your life goes on but with pregnancy everything stops, including schooling," he explained.
Statistics indicate that in Kenya 300,000 abortions occur annually and 20,000 of these women end up being hospitalised.
"Most women cite wrong timing as the reason for terminating the pregnancy," he said.
Karanja added that unsafe abortions contribute to 35 percent of all maternal deaths in Kenya which translates to 2,450 deaths out of the 7,000 that occur annually.
More grim statistics indicate that 40 percent of women who die of abortion in the country are below the age of 20.
He said there is need for the country to have a strong social support system for girls to avoid unsafe abortions and also make available family planning services for those who require them to shun unplanned pregnancies.
Mid this month, Kenya failed to make a specific commitment on the use of Family Planning at a London summit that was attended by major international donors and 69 poor countries even as statistics indicate that 25 percent of married women have unmet need for family planning.
According to the Kenyan constitution, abortion is illegal except where in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment or the life or health of the mother is in danger or if permitted by any written law.