Western-based anti-abortion campaigners are jeopardising work to improve sexual and reproductive health education in Africa, international agencies say.
Family planning and abortion are highly disputed issues in large parts of the continent, where there is very little access to reproductive health including the right to choose when and how many children to have.
And these services are in high demand. The Katego family planning clinic in Uganda's capital, Kampala sees more than 68 cases a day, according to a BBC report.
In sub Saharan Africa, the health situation for childbearing women and their children is grim. One in 13 pregnant mothers dies giving birth, according to figures from the United Nations and there has been no increase in skilled care since 1990, which has lead to pregnancy related injuries, infections, diseases and even disabilities.
Last week at the 15th African Union Summit, African leaders renewed the pledge they made in Maputo, Mozambique to ensure that there is universal access to comprehensive, sexual, reproductive health by 2015.
In Britain, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children says African babies are under threat from a pro-abortion push “Abortion should not be imposed as a foreign ideology on Africa,” the society’s Anthony Ozimic told the BBC.
But international health agencies say that groups like this one from the west are undermining their work. One of the challenges health workers are facing is groups of fundamentalist Christians, mostly from America, who use their cash to influence the debate on family planning and abortion in Africa.
The International Planned Parent hood association is trying to change the situation in Africa, making maternal health a priority and not an issue about abortion or religion.
Women in Uganda today give birth to almost seven children, on average—two more children than they would prefer, according to a report for The Alan Guttmacher Institute, which researches sexual and reproductive health. In fact, nearly 40 percent of all births in 2000 were unwanted or mistimed, up from 29 per cent of births only five years earlier. Only 23 per cent of married women were using contraceptives in 2000, although this proportion was about five times that in 1988.
Abortion is illegal in Uganda unless a woman’s pregnancy endangers her life. For this reason, abortions are often done in secrecy and often under dangerous conditions.
The World Health Organisation says health is not only the absence of infirmity and disease, but also a state of physical, mental and social well-being.