‘Umbuntu: I am because we are’ – East, Central and Southern Africa OBGYNs come together to inspire and be inspired
In October 2022, the first Community of Practice (COP) – a partnership between the East, Central, and Southern Africa College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ECSACOG) and FIGO’s Advocating for Safe Abortion Project – was hosted in Rwanda.
The COP is comprised of sexual reproductive health champions from 10 national OBGYN societies – Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique – that came together to leverage their clinical expertise and resources to address the scale of unsafe abortion in the Eastern, Central and Southern Africa region.
Dr Anne Kihara, FIGO President-Elect (pictured in red jacket) speaks to representatives at the COP meeting on how it must address preventable maternal mortality rates, access to safe abortion care and contraception in Africa:
Let’s make a pact – no baby steps, we need a catalytic, transformative change for Africa.
The partnership between ECSACOG and FIGO is a relationship to build important momentum to address preventable causes of maternal mortality and injury in our African region.
OBGYNs and health professionals have long been at the forefront of the fight against preventable maternal mortality and injury, we have done this by sharing our first-hand insights and evidence to demonstrate this issue is not just a public health concern but a preventable social injustice, that demands urgent focus. Our partnership is committed to fostering innovative solutions, amplifying our advocacy to strengthen health systems to better respond to the needs and entitlements of women and girls, which includes their right to access safe abortion care.
– Prof Bellington Vwalika, Secretary General, ECSACOG
While abortion care is legally permitted for five specific conditions in Rwanda, our health care evidence demonstrates that access to safe abortion care can be increased through telemedicine and task sharing, thus contributing to the prevention of maternal deaths and injury/disability resulting from unsafe abortion.
– Dr Eugene Ngoga, President, Rwandan Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Dr Mekdes Feyssa, World Health Organization (WHO) Medical Officer and member of ECSACOG, and Dr Antonella Lavelanet, WHO Medical Officer, shared WHO’s updated abortion care guidelines. COP participants discussed how the WHO’s recommendations could be delivered within their national contexts. The training of health care workers emerged as common areas for improvement across member societies.
The COP meeting provided a fruitful opportunity for regional leaders in sexual and reproductive health to share perspectives and ideas relating to the advancement of comprehensive abortion services (pictured: Dr Swebby Macha, Zambia, Dr Eugene Ngoga, Rwanda, Dr John Muganda, Rwanda, Dr Guyo Jaldea, Kenya, Prof Bellington Vwalika, Zambia).
Dr Garang Dakur from the Association of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of South Sudan (AGOSS) explained the challenges they face as a new society in a country with one of the highest maternal mortality rates (789 per 100,000 live births) in the world. He emphasised cultural beliefs as a major obstacle in the provision of sexual reproductive health (Pictured, left to right: Dr Garang Dakur, and Dr Carolyne Atieno Odula).
Dr Simon Peter Kayondo from Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Uganda (AOGU) shared on the need for effective strategies to enable health systems to respond better to the preventable pandemic of deaths from unsafe abortion: “You cannot keep mopping the floor if the taps are still running.”
The COP served as a inspiring environment to share solutions and resources among the 10 member societies. Dr Anne Kihara, FIGO President-Elect, shared the importance of conducting values clarification and attitudes transformation (VCAT) training to influence and change the hearts and minds of OBGYNs and health care workers so they can advocate for safe abortion care. Members of the Zambia Association of Gynaecologists & Obstetricians (ZAGO) offered their expertise in the use of media for safe abortion advocacy and South Sudan shared the need to conduct regional advocacy concerning the draft East African Community Sexual and Reproductive Health Bill (2021). (Pictured, left to right: Dr Swebby Macha, Zambia, Dr Anne Kihara, Kenya, Dr Moses Maror, South Sudan).