Attitudes to 'Kaponya Mafumo': the terminators of pregnancy in urban Zambia

Health Policy Plan. 2000 Jun;15(2):186-93. doi: 10.1093/heapol/15.2.186.


As part of a larger study of adolescent sexual and reproductive health in urban Zambia, the issue of unwanted pregnancy and abortion was considered through the examination of the perceptions of both adolescents and adults. Young people rank sexual health as their primary health issue, and sexual behaviour is integrally linked into other aspects of their lives. Pregnancies were deemed to be a common occurrence amongst the adolescents, with an estimated two-thirds of unwanted pregnancies ending in unsafe abortion. The decision to abort is primarily determined by the reaction of the boyfriend and his willingness to accept paternity and the associated financial implications. Other crucial influences are the desire to stay in school and the stigma attached to unwanted pregnancy. The decision-making process regarding the abortion itself is related to the perceived advantages and disadvantages of various service providers. Around 40% of the respondents stated that in the event of an abortion being carried out, it would be performed either by the girl herself or with the assistance of other non-medical personnel. Less popular but still significant are traditional healers and private doctors. Formal health services tend to be rejected due to their poor perception by young people, centred on the lack of privacy and confidentiality, and the de facto illegal nature of abortion itself. The services of nurses are sought, but outside of the clinic setting. The most popular method of self-induced abortion is overdosing on chloroquine. Other methods involve the use of traditional medicines such as various types of roots, as well as more modern methods such as ingesting washing powder. Recommendations for policy-makers concentrate on the improvement of formal, 'youth friendly' health services and the development of appropriate outreach education methods which address specific concerns widely held by young people.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents / administration & dosage
  • Abortion, Induced / methods*
  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / psychology
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy, Unwanted / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Urban Health*
  • Zambia


  • Abortifacient Agents