A ceremony to officially launch the next phase of the Advocacy for Comprehensive Abortion Care, ACAC project was organized on May 3, 2023, in Yaounde, Cameroon.
At the official launch of the ACAC project extended to 8 months (April to December 2023), government officials, members of the Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of Cameroon, SOGOC, and media practitioners have expressed their commitment to intensify advocacy for abortion care services.
The 4-year project implemented by SOGOC was extended to 8 months as indicated during the ceremony that took place on the 3rd of May 2023, in Nkol-Eton, Yaounde.
ACAC’s Project Manager, Rita Yenjong said the extension phase will be beneficial in the sense that it will pave the way for more advocacy talks on eligible cases that are often complexified due to administrative and legal procedures.
Rita Yenjong said: “We will be running from April to December 2023. And in this next phase, we are just going to continue with advocacy. Our focus is on ensuring that administrative and legal procedures for eligible cases to get abortion services are simplified because as it is now, the procedures are not very clear. And what the project has tried to do so far is to state these procedures.”
According to Rita Yenjong, focus shall be laid on the timeframe granted to eligible cases to have access to abortion care services in recommended health facilities.
She added: “We came up with a book, the referral part with eligible cases. We are also going to vulgarize this book and disseminate it in all ten regions so that all the stakeholders are engaged in ensuring that abortion services are being rendered to eligible cases and know exactly what to do in time. With this document, we also hope that eligible cases can have these services within 72 hours. In this next phase, we are going to strengthen advocacy and sensitization campaigns as well as to intensify our collaboration with the media which has been a fruitful partner…”
Speaking on behalf of the president of SOGOC, the Secretary General of this organization, Dr. Mwadjie Darolles, first emphasized maternal mortality as a major public health problem worldwide and in particular in Cameroon, and which is an indirect indicator of the quality of the health system in a country.
“The causes of maternal mortality are many and well-identified. Amongst these causes, there is abortion that occupies an important place. And in Cameroon, 1 in 4 maternal deaths are linked to abortion… Mutualizing efforts is very crucial in this endless fight, and that is why SOGOC being a network enriched with different experts working at the national and international levels, strives for the well-being and the amelioration of the reproductive health of populations by assisting the Ministry of Public health in its duties.” She said.
Dr Mwadjie indicated that the 8 months extension granted to the ACAC project which is financed by FIGO (the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics) ended in 2022, yet with this new prolongment, there will be a need to improve safe abortion access for eligible cases and accentuate communication.
While addressing media practitioners, Dr Mwadjie Darolles, said the media as an ally of SOGOC has a key role to play.
She underscored the need to inform women about the existence of legal abortion as concerns some who are victims of rape or who face complications in their pregnancies.
SOGOC’s Secretary General stated that: “Legal abortion in Cameroon is possible when the pregnancy is as a result of rape, and when the health of the mother is in danger, that is when the pregnancy puts the health of the mother in danger. Yet in Cameroon, the challenges concerning the law is simply the application of the law because it is not a medical diagnosis to say that someone has been raped or not but the decision of the court of justice and the procedures are very long and strenuous.”
Government officials present at this launch ceremony equally reiterated their commitment to work with SOGOC and the media for a positive output in this project.
After the launch, members of the ACAC media network took active part in a one-day workshop that focused on mapping out an action plan on how the media can be proactive in reporting safe abortion for eligible cases within the framework of the project.
Successes recorded by the ACAC Project
Despite the numerous challenges faced by the ACAC project nationwide, several strides were recorded as stated by SOGOC.
Among others, there is the creation of a network that has involved 23 member organizations working in areas of sexual and reproductive health and government ministries like public health, justice, women’s empowerment, and the family.
There is the creation of a referral document for the management of survivors of rape; the creation of 10 regional offices for SOGOC which greatly helped in the implementation of the project in all the regions of Cameroon.
Moreover, thanks to the ACAC project, over 15 health professionals were drilled on comprehensive abortion care techniques, and in return, these trained staff shared their learning with other colleagues.
Also, the project successfully embarked lawmakers from the Senate and National Assembly. They have spearheaded discussions at the level of the parliament. In March and June 2022, during oral sessions, the situation on the MAPUTO PROTOCOL and abortion law was posed to the Minister of public health.
Added to these records is the collection of abortion data through registers stationed in various district hospitals in Cameroon. And so far over 200 cases have been registered nationwide.
The project also funded research focused on morbidity and mortality linked to unsafe abortions in Cameroon-Difficulties in accessing safe abortion.