NDHLOVU: AT UNFPA We Don’t Recommend Abortion, But Ensure Adequate Care



Ms. Ratidzai Ndhlovu is the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Resident Representative (Nigeria). Speaking with KAMAL TAYO OROPO, she explains the agency efforts in bringing succour to women victims of Boko Haram insurgency, particularly the rescued pregnant ladies. 

The UNFPA has been active in the effort at rehabilitating a number of Boko Haram victims; would you confirm how many of the rescued girls are pregnant? WHEN humanitarian crises strike, the UNFPA is there and fully committed to ensuring that women can deliver babies safely and that they can maintain their health, dignity, rights and self-worth even in the most challenging situations.

Our efforts are focused on supporting women and girls to restore their lives as quickly as possible and begin the process of healing to be able to fulfill their potential and once again resume productive lives. On our part, we provide assistance to the rescued women and girls along with other highly affected people.

But on the numbers of impregnated rescued girls, the government is managing such information. The UNFPA priority is to ensure that those who are pregnant get the services essential for safe delivery.

What has been the nature of the UNFPA engagement in this regard? What we do at the UNFPA is to ensure that pregnant women and girls get the health care that they need and that they deliver their babies safely with skilled birth attendants.

It restores the dignity of women by providing them with hygiene items needed to address women-specific needs. UNFPA also supports survivors of violence through psycho-social counselling.

In order to facilitate these services, the agency supports the training of health workers and psycho-social counsellors. This support includes the rescued women and girls. Upon the arrival of rescued women and children in Malkohi camp in Yola, we responded immediately by providing reproductive health care and psycho-social counseling.

Women and girls who survive unimaginable trauma of captivity and brutalising violence need immediate and compassionate care and UNFPA has been, as always, determined to ensure that they are given everything they need to be able to heal with dignity, safety and a restored sense of self-worth. After a few weeks of counseling, there was marked improvement in the survivors.

What informed your call for “mercy” abortion for the victims? I really don’t know where this information emanated from or what gives the impression that the UNFPA will give such advice. For any avoidance of doubt, let me empahtically state that the UNFPA does not promote abortion of any type, neither does it support it as a method of family planning nor does it have any abortion related interventions in Nigeria.

UNFPA supports voluntary family planning so that women and men can freely determine the number, timing and spacing of their children, as well as, prevent unwanted pregnancies — it is their human right to do so and to have the means to exercise that right. This helps reduce recourse to abortion. All UNFPA support abides by Nigeria’s laws.

What options are there for these victims? The survivors need to be counselled, stabilised and reintegrated into their communities as soon as conditions permit. UNFPA will work with the government and other partners to prepare the survivors and their communities for this to happen.

It is reported that it could be difficult gaining the trust of some of these victims; how has the agency been able to get across to their minds? As have stated earlier, we have trained psychosocial counselors, who have the skills in talking with survivors of violence and most specifically, Gender Based Violence (GBV), which falls, within one of our mandate areas.

Through sessions of one-on-one and group counselling, our counsellors have been able to stabilise these survivors by re-establishing the feelings of trust and safety so that they can open up and tell their stories without fear of being hurt by their sad memories.

How would you describe the level of cooperation from the Nigerian government? The cooperation between UNFPA and the Nigerian government is excellent. UNFPA supports implementation of national priorities both in terms of humanitarian action and development. UNFPA does not implement programs but supports government in its implementation of both humanitarian and development programs.

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1 Comment
  • Maigari

    The cases of the BH abuse victims seems to have been mishandled from the start. The way the story was disseminated was wrong. The women should have been counselled on the entire issue and given a choice whether to keep the pregnancy or not. After that medical advise could be sought on where it is too late for an abortion. The idea pf “adequate care” is somewhat unrealistic given the instituitional decay att both the medical and social branches of the our governance and the general lack of awareness on these issues. A careful study of a similar scenario played out in Bosnia Herzegovina and valuable lessons could be drawn from there. It is still not too late though because from the look of things there are still far more cases of these forced pregnancies to be discovered. The BH are just not humane anywhere.