Health Development Initiative (HDI) on Monday, September 28 partnered with the Ministry of Health (MOH) alongside other organisations like Rwanda NGOs Forum on HIV/AIDs and Health Promotion, Ihorere Munyarwanda Organization, and Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights and Development, to celebrate International Safe Abortion Day.
The event took place at Kibagabaga Hospital and was aimed at highlighting the measures of prevention of unwanted pregnancies. The organisations enlighted the youth and women to openly access safe abortion services in both public and private hospitals if the reasons they want to have an abortion are allowed by the law.
While addressing participants at the event, the Director of Clinical Services at the Ministry of Health (MoH), Edward Kamuhangire, noted that the MoH has provided training and equipment to different hospitals so that those who are legally allowed to have a safe abortion have the procedure performed by medical doctors.
He stressed that unsafe abortions are not permitted by the government and the MoH, as they can result in medical complications such as severe bleeding, uterine perforation, tearing of the cervix, severe damage to the genitals and abdomen, internal infection of the abdomen, blood poisoning, reproductive tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pain, and infertility.
The Ministerial order No 002/MoH/2019 of April 8, 2019, determines that for a medical doctor to perform an abortion, the person requesting the abortion must satisfy certain conditions. Abortions may be performed in cases of rape, forced marriage, incest committed with a person to the second degree of kinship, health risk to the woman or fetus, or in cases where the pregnant person is a child.
Observing International safe abortion day comes as an addition to HDI’s ongoing sensitisation meetings on the ministerial order on abortion, where HDI reached out to communities to discuss the current legal framework on abortion and family planning in 15 districts of Rwanda.
The awareness sessions targeted teen mothers, parents of teen mothers, female sex workers, youth and women leaders, law enforcement agencies, local authorities, religious leaders and healthcare providers to boost their knowledge on legal provisions relating to abortion; and law determining offenses and penalties in general.
“The essence of this day is to raise awareness on the progress that we have done, but to also fight stigma. We are continuing to make sure that civil society encourages women and girls to have information about the ministerial order on abortion. And be able to link some of the women and girls that may need such services instead of resorting to self, unsafe abortion that can result in complications and loss of life."
“We are also happy that this function is taking place in the hospital. We thank the government for the initiatives put in place. Ten years ago, this was not in place and it was not possible to talk about safe abortion in a public space. Our country has made a lot of progress.” said Dr. Aflodis Kagaba, the Executive Director HDI.
He explained that HDI is committed to offering any kind of support whether it’s engaging the civil society to continue with the awareness or training medical students and ensuring that all healthcare providers and the support staff like the social workers, counselors are aware and ready to offer the information and services on safe abortion.
This year, HDI has trained around 100 aspiring physicians in order to build their capacity on providing safe abortion services and 80 representatives from different CSOs working on SRHR to discuss their role in advancing access to safe abortion services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eugène Kanyamanza, in charge of safe abortion in Rwanda Biomedical Center, during the international world day of safe abortion at Kibagabaga Hospital on September 28, 2020.