MSF: Addressing challenges to providing safe abortion in humanitarian emergencies
Medecins Sans Frontieres, Geneva, Switzerland
MSF responds to needs for the termination of pregnancy, including on request (TPR); it is part of the organisation's work aimed at reducing maternal mortality and preventing unsafe abortions in the countries where we work. The presentation shares insights into MSF's experience over the past few years. A policy decision on safe abortion care was taken in 2004 - the fact that care did not expand rapidly came as a surprise. It also took time to recognise that specific efforts are required to understand and address key challenges that present barriers to the provision of safe abortion care.
With policy, guidance, tools and training in place, humble progress has been made and some key lessons have emerged: the importance of making patient needs a priority over other considerations; acting accordingly requires organisation of services and other measures to mitigate potential risk for the patients and staff. There are undeniably strong social norms regarding abortion and they must be considered. An important knowledge gap remains, even among MSF staff. An open dialogue with staff, relevant medical actors and at community level is essential to address this and result in a change in attitude.