The Ombudsman of the Republic of Malawi recently released a report,
Woes of the Womb: An Investigation into allegations of medical malpractices resulting in removal of uteruses from expectant women in public health facilities , SYS/INV/2/2019 (Malawi: Office of the Ombudsman, August 2019): 37- page report.
We thank doctoral candidates Godfrey Kangaude* and Chrispine Sibande** for summarizing this report:
The Ombudsman is an independent public body with a mandate that includes investigating cases of injustice.
This investigation was triggered by media reports alleging a high rate of women undergoing hysterectomies in a public hospital due to post-caesarean wound infections. The report reveals serious challenges in the provision of obstetric and gynaecological care in Malawi’s public hospitals. Factors contributing include; long waiting periods to receive surgical care, lack of qualified personnel, shortage of surgical materials and essential drugs, poor infection prevention practices, and negligence of health providers. Between January and July 2018 alone, three pregnant women died at one hospital because of late surgical interventions due to the hospital’s lack of capacity.
The report reveals clear violations of sexual and reproductive rights of Malawian women and girls which are expressly recognised in the Constitution and the Gender Equality Act, including the right to life, dignity, equality and non-discrimination. Further, Malawi has ratified international and regional treaties including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, without reservations. Malawi should address the problems urgently, both in the short and long term, to preserve the health and lives of women and girls.
This is the first time such an investigation has been undertaken in Malawi, although complaints of poor service delivery and deaths of women in public hospitals are common. The report has generated interest from different stakeholders on how to address the challenges women and girls are facing regarding obstetric and gynaecological care.
*Godfrey Kangaude, LLD candidate, Department of Private Law, University of Pretoria
** Chrispine Sibande, LLD candidate, Center for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
Cite as: Godfrey Kangaude and Chrispine Sibande, “Malawi: preventable deaths, hysterectomies and poor ob/gyn care in public hospitals” Reprohealthlaw Blog, Sept 30, 2019 <https://wp.me/p1Stxd-3iC>
125 other Reprohealthlaw Blog Commentaries are online here.
Four court decisions on preventable maternal mortality in hospitals (Uganda and South Africa) are summarized in Chapter 3: “Maternal Health Care and Services,” in: Legal Grounds III: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts (Pretoria: Pretoria University Law Press, 2017) Online edition with updates. Earlier volumes online.
Compiled by: the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at utoronto.ca. See Program website for our Publications, Information resources, and Reprohealthlaw Commentaries Series. TO JOIN THE REPROHEALTHLAW BLOG: enter your email address in the upper right corner of our blog, then check your email to confirm the subscription.