(Jumai, a survivor)
With about 500,000 Nigerian women living with obstetric fistula, women need to avail themselves with regular medical check up to prevent health complications, including fistula, that could lead to death of mothers.
As Nigeria commemorates the World Fistula day MAY 23, there is a need for collective action to get appropriate treatment to avoid the needless debilitating conditions and death that could result from pregnancy and childbirth complications in the country.
Programme Director, Development Communications Network, Akin Jimoh asserted that “we need to end obstetric fistula in Nigeria by addressing all factors, from poverty to early childbearing, that predispose women, especially the girl-child to this debilitating condition.”
Most fistulas are as a result of difficult childbirth and obstructed labour lasting more than 24 hours.
Nigeria records no fewer than 12,000 new cases of fistula annually as a result of complications in childbirth.
Obstetric Fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder, caused by prolonged, obstructed labour, leaving a woman incontinent of urine or faeces or both.
According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Nigeria, each year, some 50,000-100,000 women sustain an obstetric fistula in the act of trying to bring forth new life. It is the most devastating of all pregnancy-related disabilities and Nigeria accounts for 40% of fistula cases worldwide.
Currently, there are about half a million women in Nigeria suffering from vesico vaginal fistula (VVF), according to the Ministry of Health.
How then do we help the women living with Fistula?
About 6,000 fistula repairs are performed every year in Nigeria but more than 148,000 women were on the waiting list for surgery (The Nigerian National Strategic Framework, 2008).
Some of the VVF centers do not have enough beds or adequate electricity to operate.
Government needs to increase the funding allocated to the health sector and implement provisions of various policies to address the needs of women and children.
The annual International Day to End Fistula (IDEOF) was set aside by the United Nations, as a day to rally support and draw attention to activities targeting the elimination of fistula around.
According to UNFPA, the theme of this year’s IDEOF, “Hope, healing, and dignity for all,” is, at its heart, a call to realize the fundamental human rights of all women and girls everywhere, with a special focus on those most left behind, excluded and shunned by society.