Nairobi — A new survey released on Wednesday shows that there were 464,690 abortions procured in Kenya last year.
According to the study by the African Population and Health Research Centre, Rift Valley recorded the highest cases at 38,687 followed by Nyanza with 36,842.
The Director of Medical Services Francis Kimani who was present at the launch of the study said that a majority of the abortions were procured by women who had unwanted pregnancies.
"It is important to recognise that unintended pregnancy is a major contributor to unsafe abortions in most African countries," he stated, adding that 45 percent of births in the preceding five years were reported by women as unwanted.
He added that Central and Nairobi recorded a combined 20,676 cases followed by Coast and North Eastern Province with a total of 16, 649 cases.
Kimani further revealed that nearly 120,000 women sought treatment for complications arising from unsafe abortions, and three-quarters needed treatment for moderate or severe complications, including high fever, sepsis, shock, or organ failure.
"It is clear from the evidence that improving women's access to affordable and effective family planning and contraception is key to preventing unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortions," he said.
Kimani explained that the treatment of complications of unsafe abortion placed an extra strain on Kenya's already overburdened healthcare system.
He underscored the Ministry of Health's desire to help reduce medical problems and fatalities from unsafe abortions and work within the provisions of the law to help women seeking abortion as well as implement policies that help to reduce unwanted pregnancies.
The study also showed that women who seek treatment for complications from unsafe abortion in Kenya are extremely diverse, cutting across social, marital and religious lines.
For example, the study found that 64 percent of women who sought post-abortion care were either married or in a long term relationship while nearly 90 percent identified themselves as Christians.
"When compared to other African countries and other regions of the world, Kenya's national abortion rate of 48 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age (15-49 years), is among the highest with only Uganda having a higher rate in the region," Kimani stated.
The study also found a fatality rate of 266 deaths per 100,000 unsafe abortions in Kenya.
The report recommended increasing access to effective family planning methods including post-abortion family planning counselling and method provision throughout Kenya, addressing the unique needs of young women, and engaging and educating communities about the risk of unsafe abortion.
The study also recommended the adoption of and training on modern methods and technology by medical practitioners to help improve post-abortion care.