Twenty-five million unsafe abortions happen annually, and most of them occur in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.

The WHO and Guttmacher Institute spearheaded a study on how many abortions occur yearly, results of which were published in The Lancet, a medical journal.

The study looked at the numbers of all kinds of unsafe abortions from 2010 to 2014, and researchers concluded that of the 25 million unsafe abortions yearly from 2010 to 2014, 97 percent occurred in countries within the African, Asian and Latin America regions.

Notably, the researchers found that abortions in countries where the act is legal and has broader grounds, 9 out of 10 are done safely.

Conversely, in countries where abortion is banned or permitted only to save the woman’s life, only one out of four cases was done safely.

“Increased efforts are needed, especially in developing regions, to ensure access to contraception and safe abortion,” said Dr Bela Ganatra, a scientist at the WHO Department of Health and Research and lead author.

For the study, the authors defined “safe” and “unsafe” abortions and provided sub-classifications. They explained that the “distinctions” allowed for better understanding of the circumstances of why women were unable to access safe abortion.

For “safe abortions,” the researchers noted that approximately 55 percent of these procedures were safely done, following a WHO-recommended method.

Thirty-one percent of abortions, meanwhile, were considered “less-safe” as they were conducted using outdated methods such as “sharp curettage” or conducted under an untrained person using a drug called misoprostol, considered an unsafe method.

Fourteen percent used “least safe” methods, which included insertion of foreign objects into the vaginal canal or use of herbal concoctions. Such methods can result to incomplete abortion, haemorrhage, and injury to the organs, as well as infection, the WHO warned.

Death rates were higher in places which registered the use of “least safe” methods. Yearly, 4.7 to 13.2 percent of maternal deaths were attributed to unsafe abortion, while 7 million women were admitted to hospitals due to complications arising from unsafe abortions.

The WHO suggested that countries must invest, foremost, in supportive policies and financial commitments that promote comprehensive sexuality education in preventing unintended pregnancies and ultimately, unsafe abortions.

Officials must look into sexuality education, use of a wide range of contraceptive methods as well as emergency contraception, family planning counselling and access to safe, legal abortion.

“Provision of safe, legal abortion is essential to fulfilling the global commitment to the Sustainable Development Goal of universal access to sexual and reproductive health,” said the WHO. MIMS