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Incomplete Abortions Continue to Dominate Hospital Admissions in Lesotho: 2022 Statistical Report

6 November 2023 by Pascalinah Kabi

In a concerning revelation, a 2022 report from the Lesotho Bureau of Statistics has brought to light a troubling trend within the country’s healthcare system.

According to the report, the primary cause of female hospital admissions in Lesotho is incomplete abortions.

“The main reason for female hospital admissions is incomplete abortions, accounting for 24.3 percent,” states the 2022 Health Statistics report.

For the third consecutive year, the Health Statistics Report reveals that incomplete abortion was the leading cause of hospital admissions among females in Lesotho. In 2021, 28 percent of females admitted across the country were due to incomplete abortions, while the 2020 statistics showed a rate of 19.7 percent.

Despite the slight decrease in the latest statistics compared to the 2021 Health Statistics Report, this data highlights a significant and concerning rise in hospital admissions related to incomplete abortions. It underscores the urgent need to strengthen access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare services in the country.

The situation is further compounded by Section 45 of the Penal Code Act, 2010, which criminalises abortion in Lesotho. This legal ban has led to a proliferation of illegal abortions, resulting in hospitalisations across the nation.

In 2018, the Lesotho Times reported that up to 70 women with complications from illegal abortions were referred to Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital on a weekly basis.

Four years later, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that 36 percent of hospital admissions for obstetric and gynaecological issues were among girls aged 10-14 due to abortion. Women aged 25-49 also represented a high percentage at 15 percent, followed by those aged 20-24 at ten percent.

Notably, the Berea district recorded the highest number of obstetric and gynaecological admissions due to abortion in the first quarter of three years, with 184 cases in 2020, followed by Maseru with 130 admissions during the same year, according to the UNFPA website.

A 2023 research study focusing on the support required to prevent unwanted pregnancies in Lesotho reveals that adolescents often resort to unsafe abortions yearly.

These unsafe practices result in maternal complications such as pregnancy-induced hypertension, anaemia, gestational diabetes, birth trauma, prematurity, low birth weight infants, and a high mortality rate, as highlighted in the report.

The Bureau of Statistics data indicates that females dominated hospital admissions in general hospitals, particularly in the age groups ranging from 15 to 19 years up to 40 to 44 years and those aged 65 years and over. A total of 16,101 patients were admitted to healthcare facilities nationwide, with females consistently having a higher presence from 2020 to 2022, reversing the trend observed in 2019.

The Bureau of Statistics reports that there are 377 healthcare facilities, including general hospitals, health centres, and clinics, integrated into the Ministry of Health’s District Health Information Systems (DHIS2). However, only 217 of these healthcare facilities collected and recorded data for the year 2022.

This data was subsequently analysed by the Bureau of Statistics, confirming that incomplete abortions were the leading cause of hospital admissions among females.

Meanwhile, sexually transmitted diseases were the least common ailments among both males and females treated as outpatients in 2022.

“Urethritis and urethral discharge constituted only 3.7 percent among the top ten causes of outpatient visits for males. The least frequent among the top ten diseases was vaginal discharge, accounting for just 4.0 percent,” the report indicates.

Despite these statistics, the report refrains from offering an interpretation of whether the low prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases among both sexes suggests that Basotho are practicing safe sex.

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  1. Don’t you think abortion should be legal in Lesotho because that way there will be proper care from doctors and nurses,

  2. Abortion should be ligalized in Lesotho. This could decrease the mortality rate of women who die because of black market Abortion.

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