IT IS beyond doubt that over the years, especially in the past decade, Bangladesh has made significant progress in bringing down the maternal mortality rate. According to recent estimates, the rate went down from 332 to 194 per 100,000 live births, keeping Bangladesh well on track to meeting the Millennium Development Goal 5 of the United Nations; the country needs to bring the rate down to 143 per 100,000 live births by 2015. However, all may not be well in the fight to bring the maternal mortality rate. According to the statistics of the Association for Prevention of Septic Abortion, Bangladesh, as quoted in a report published in New Age on Friday, unsafe menstruation regulation and abortion contribute to keeping the rate high, with an estimated 572,000 women suffering from unsafe abortion-induced complications every year. In 2010, the statistics show, approximately 653,100 MR procedures and 646,000 inducted abortions were carried out in different health service facilities, mainly medical college hospitals and district hospital; there were at least 102 deaths resulting from abortion-related complications. Experts fear that the number undercounts the true prevalence of abortion-related deaths, for it does not include deaths taking place outside the health facilities, and misclassification or underreporting of abortion-related deaths.
What is, perhaps, more distressing is the fact that the cause of complications related to menstruation regulation and abortion, as noted by experts, is more often than not improper use of equipment or use of un-sterilised equipment, which, suffice it to say, points to monitoring failure on the part of the health administrators. Moreover, as health experts pointed out at the launching ceremony of Saving Women from Unwanted Pregnancy and Unsafe MR project, which was held in the capital on Thursday, the bigger issue here is a general lack of awareness. For example, it is unsafe for a woman to go for menstrual regulation after 10 weeks of conception. It is illegal as well; the law of the land does not ‘permit abortion after 10 weeks of conception if the mother does not suffer from any physical complications.’ In most cases, however, women seek such intervention after the 10-week period and, in their desperation to terminate unwanted pregnancies, turn to the informal health services sector when they are turned down by, say, medical college hospitals or district hospitals, even at the risk of life-threatening complications.
Hence, the effort to fight the alarming trend needs to be two-pronged. The authorities need to, on the one hand, ensure that all health services facilities go by the rule and, on the other, launch extensive public awareness on the issue.
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