The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread disruption to essential health service provision globally, including in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Recognising the criticality of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, we review the actual reported impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on SRH service provision and evidence of adaptations that have been implemented to date. Across LMICs, the available data suggests that there was a reduction in access to SRH services, including family planning (FP) counselling and contraception access, and safe abortion during the early phase of the pandemic, especially when movement restrictions were in place. However, services were quickly restored, or alternatives to service provision (adaptations) were explored in many LMICs. Cases of gender-based violence (GBV) increased, with one in two women reporting that they have or know a woman who has experienced violence since the beginning of the pandemic. As per available evidence, many adaptations that have been implemented to date have been digitised, focused on getting SRH services closer to women. Through the pandemic, several LMIC governments have provided guidelines to support SRH service delivery. In addition, non-governmental organisations working in SRH programming have played significant roles in ensuring SRH services have been sustained by implementing several interventions at different levels of scale and to varying success. Most adaptations have focused on FP, with limited attention placed on GBV. Many adaptations have been implemented based on guidance and best practices and, in many cases, leveraged evidence-based interventions. However, some adaptations appear to have simply been the sensible thing to do. Where evaluations have been carried out, many have highlighted increased outputs and efficiency following the implementation of various adaptations. However, there is limited published evidence on their effectiveness, cost, value for money, acceptability, feasibility, and sustainability. In addition, the pandemic has been viewed as a homogenous event without recognising its troughs and waves or disentangling effects of response measures such as lockdowns from the pandemic itself. As the pandemic continues, neglected SRH services like those targeting GBV need to be urgently scaled up, and those being implemented with any adaptations should be rigorously tested.
Abortion-related mortality accounts for 8% of all global maternal deaths and 97% of the estimated 25 million unsafe abortions performed each year occur in low- and middle-income countries. Haiti has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the western hemisphere and to further understand the circumstances of induced abortion in Haiti, the current work uses data from the 2012 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) to describe the methods of induced abortion in Haiti between 2007-2012 and to identify potential factors associated with use of different abortion methods.
This is a secondary analysis of nationally representative cross-sectional data from the 2012 Haitian DHS, a two-stage cluster randomized household survey. Analysis included descriptive statistics on participant demographics, methods of abortion, and location of / assistant for the abortion. Multivariate regression was conducted to determine if demographic characteristics were associated with: 1) increased or decreased odds of having an abortion; or 2) increased or decreased odds of reporting an evidence based or non-evidence based method of abortion.
Among the 14,287 women of childbearing age who completed the 2012 Haiti DHS survey, 289 women reported having an induced abortion in the previous five years. Recommended methods, manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) or misoprostol alone, were used in 26.6% of the abortions (n = 77). Additionally, 13.8% (n = 40) of abortions used these recommended methods in combination with a non-evidenced based method such as injections, plants or tablets. A total of 92 women had a dilation and curettage (D&C) abortion, either alone (n = 77) or in combination with another method (n = 15) and over a quarter (n = 80) of reported abortions were conducted by non-evidence based methods (n = 80). A majority of abortions using a recommended method were assisted by a relative/friend (n = 28) or were unassisted (n = 34). Most abortions occurred in private homes (n = 174) with hospitals/clinics being the second most common location (n = 84). Women in the middle (OR = 3.3, 95% CI = 2.0-5.6) and highest (OR = 7.4, 95% CI = 4.4-12.3) wealth brackets were more likely to have had an abortion in comparison to women in the lowest wealth bracket. Women who had ever been in a marital union were more likely to have had an abortion than those who had not. The only demographic factor predictive of aborting using a recommended method was living in an urban area, with urban-dwelling women being less likely to use a recommended abortion method (OR = 0.4, 95% CI = 0.2-0.9) in comparison with women living in rural settings.
In a nationally representative survey in Haiti, 2% of women of childbearing age reported having an abortion in the five years prior to the survey. A large proportion of these abortions were carried out using non-evidence based methods and over half occurred outside of the formal health care system. Understanding women’s attitudes, knowledge and barriers around abortion is paramount to improving knowledge and access to evidence-based abortion care in an effort to decrease maternal morbidity and mortality in Haiti.
Women in developing countries usually encounter serious inequities in terms of women’s health. To date, there is limited understanding of abortion from the perspective of Haitian women. As a limited-resource country, Haiti faces complex social issues and healthcare challenges. With abortion being illegal, many adult and teenage women seek clandestine abortions. The aim of this study was to explore and gain a greater understanding of women’s and healthcare workers’ beliefs and experiences about abortion in Haiti.Descriptive qualitative design was used to elicit information for the study. Eight focus groups were conducted with Haitian women and healthcare workers in five communities in the south of Haiti: Les Cayes, Aquin, St. Louis du Sud, Cavaillon, Maniche, and Ile a Vache. Participants were purposively selected and consented to participate and to be tape recorded. Content analysis followed using the verbatim transcripts, with triangulation of four researchers; saturation was reached with this number of focus groups.The transcripts revealed six main themes regarding beliefs and experiences about abortion in Haiti: cultural aspects, consumers, perils of care, and legal concerns. Both women and healthcare workers discussed the repercussions of illegal abortion and the role of the government and hospitals. Participants identified similar perils and complications of unsafe abortions, such as postpartum hemorrhage and infection.Results showed an urgent need to create a public health response that addresses different dimensions of abortion by engaging women and healthcare providers in rapid and concrete actions that promote access and safe care of women. It is imperative to conduct more research related to abortion in order to examine other associated factors to better understand the links between abortion and sexual health disparities among Haitian women. These results highlight the need for a rapid response to the need of this vulnerable group, who are experiencing high rates of mortality. This can also serve as a directive to approach this issue in other developing countries in the Caribbean region, particularly from its clinical relevance.Unsafe abortions are prevalent in developing countries; yet limited research exists on the topic. It is paramount to gain an understanding of the women’s and healthcare workers’ beliefs and experiences surrounding abortion, in order to develop interventions that prevent abortion complications in Haitian women.