Kenya is paying a heavy human and financial cost for unsafe abortions

One of the critical targets for countries that are trying to meet the sustainable development goals is reducing the number of mothers who die from complications during or immediately after their pregnancies.

The target for 2030 is that each country will have less than 70 mothers dying for each of the 100 000 live births that happen each year.

This would eliminate almost all preventable maternal deaths.In Kenya, this is still a challenge. Every year for every 100 000 births 495 women die. One of the major contributors to this figure are the complications that women sustain during unsafe abortions.Unsafe abortions happen when a pregnancy is terminated by someone who lacks the necessary skills and in places that aren’t medically certified.In Kenya, abortion is only legal when there is a need for emergency treatment or the life or health of the mother is in danger.

Permission for an abortion must be made by a trained health professional. The latest data for Kenya (from 2012) shows that there were close to half a million unsafe abortions in the country that year. At least 100 000 of those women needed to be treated in hospital. And roughly a quarter died due to complications.


Estelle Monique Sidze is Associate Research Scientist, African Population and Health Research Center

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