Abortion in the North of Burkina Faso

  • Karl Lorenz Dehane Department of Tropical Hygiene and Public Health, University of Heidelberg
Keywords: Burkina Faso, Fulbe, Gurmance, abortion, abortifacients, ergot-alkaloids

Abstract

Knowledge and use of abortifacients were investigated in a remote ethnically heterogeneous area in the north of Burkina Faso. A questionnaire survey was carried out among 320 married women in 21 villages and supplemented with key informants' interviews, clinical observations at the provincial hospital, and observations in one of the villages. Almost half of the sampled women of all ethnic groups admitted to the existence of abortion carried out by their peers. Response rates and knowledge of abortions were lower among younger women and among those belonging to the Islamic Hamallist and Wahabiya sects. Abortions were commonly induced by drinking a watery solution of the roots and leaves of a commonly found bush –– Securidaca longepedunculata. The plant contains uterine contraction stimulating ergot-alkaloids, but also strychnine-like toxic substances. It is reportedly effective in provoking abortions within one day of treatment, but its side-effects are severe and include heavy vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting, and death. There is a need for the rapid introduction of safer birth control methods in the region. (Afr J Reprod Health 1999; 3[2]: 40-50)

Key Words: Burkina Faso, Fulbe, Gurmance, abortion, abortifacients, ergot-alkaloids

Author Biography

Karl Lorenz Dehane, Department of Tropical Hygiene and Public Health, University of Heidelberg
Correspondence: Karl L Dehne, Department Tropical Hygiene and Public Health, University of Heidelberg, Ringstrasse 19,69115 Heidelberg, Germany
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