Home / News / News archive / 2011 / March 2011 / Zimbabwe women turning to herbalists for abortion

Zimbabwe women turning to herbalists for abortion

As doctor's abortion fees soar, women in Zimbabwe are resorting to traditional medicine for illegal abortions.

Abortion is illegal in the southern African country and only allowed in cases of incest, rape or when the pregnancy threatens the mother's life.

But some qualified doctors charge women desperate to end unwanted pregnancies up to the equivalent of £300 for a safe abortion.

The high cost has led many women including high school and college students  to turn to alternative medicine for an abortion.

A survey at Mupedzanhamo market in the capital Zaire found herbalists offering abortions for as little as what would be £15.

The country's The Standard newspaper sent an undercover reporter posing as a married woman who wanted an abortion after she got pregnant while having an affair.

The herbalist first asked for the equivalent of £40 for a mixture that would give 'instant results'. 
But the trader readily dropped the price to what would be about £15. When the  reporter asked how safe the medicine was, she was told there were many happy customers.

Look at this book full of names of people I have helped,” they told the newspaper. “My herbs work and so many people from as young as form II students to people like you come here for abortion. I help them terminate the pregnancies.

One woman told the investigator how she had used traditional herbs apparently safely  more than once. “There is this old woman who charges US$30 to terminate pregnancies in my neighbourhood,” she said. “The medicine is a concoction of different herbs and  starts working after an hour. I have done it twice and my husband has never suspected it.

The government said it knew about the practice. Douglas Mombeshora, deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare said the only solution was safe sex. But he admitted that wiping out the problem among teenage girls is a huge challenge because they can't get hold of contraceptives easily.

Every year more than 70,000 illegal abortions take place in Zimbabwe, according to a report by the UN Children's Fund, Unicef.

Worldwide, 14 per cent of all unsafe abortions in the developing world – amounting to 2.5 million a year – involve girls under 20, World Health Organisation figures say. Many do it because they lack control over their own fertility, whether because of poverty, ignorance or problems with partners, it said.

Hayley attribution