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REVEALED: How unsafe abortion is draining public hospital cash

Kenya spent Sh533 million in 2016 to treat complications of unsafe abortions in public health facilities.

This was money used to pay health workers’ salaries and buy medical supplies.

This was an increase of Sh100 million from 2012 where the figure stood at Sh432.7 million, according to a report by the Ministry of Health titled The Costs of Treating Unsafe Abortion Complications in Public Health Facilities in Kenya.

The increase clearly tells that more women are procuring unsafe abortions.


An unsafe abortion is defined as the termination of a pregnancy either by persons lacking the skills or in an environment lacking the minimal medical standards.

The Sh533 million can easily purchase two linear accelerator cancer treatment machines of which one goes for Sh300 million, but the amount was spent to treat severe bleeding, organ failure, genital trauma, and sepsis (life-threatening complications due to an infection).

According to the report, Rift Valley was leading with the number of unsafe abortions, with Sh112 million going to treat unsafe abortions, followed by western regions where Sh83 million was used.

Most cases were handled at level four facilities where the government spent about Sh221 million while at level three and five facilities, the government used about Sh83 million and Sh65 million, respectively.


However, the World Health Organization recommends an average health expenditure per year of Sh3,400 in low and middle-income countries to improve the health of the population.

The average annual per capita health expenditure for Kenya was about US$35 (Sh3,500) to US$45 (Sh4,500) between 2011 and 2013.

The report on the incidence of abortion conducted by African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC), shows the average per-case cost of treating a typical patient in Kenyan public health facilities in 2012 following an unsafe abortion stood at Sh4,943 (US$50).

This therefore means that on average the total annual health budget for two Kenyans was spent in treating a single case of unsafe abortion complications.


Dr Jackson Kioko, the Director of Medical Services, says that in spite of improvements in the health sector, “a significant proportion of these deaths and morbidities is driven by complications of unsafe abortion”.

“All the women are treated in public health facilities, exerting pressure on scarce health system resources,” Dr Kioko says.

The nationwide report used information on salaries and essential medicines from the Ministry of Health data from 128 public health facilities, from level two to level six hospitals that offer post-abortion care.

It shows on average it costs more to treat abortion complications in Nairobi – at Sh7,674 – and eastern – at Sh5,390 – than elsewhere in the country.