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First Lady launches partnership to increase fistula repairs

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The First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has launched a platform to source partnerships and pool resources to help increase healthcare access for women with obstetric fistula in the country.

Every year, 1,300 women get obstetric fistula, but only 100 can undergo surgery and repair.

Obstetric Fistula is when a woman goes through prolonged labour, which sometimes creates a passage between the rectum and vagina.

In most cases, the baby dies during this process.

This condition leads to the leaking of offensive odour, which makes it impossible for the victims to go into public for fear of stigmatisation.

It is estimated that each year, between 50,000 to 100,000 women worldwide are affected by obstetric fistula and that more than two million young women live with untreated obstetric fistula in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Partnership

Dubbed Partnership to End Obstetric Fistula in Ghana (PEFIG), it is spearheaded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and formed to drive a five-year campaign drawing on the public sector, the United Nations (UN), private sector, non-governmental organisation (NGOs), community actors and some individuals to accelerate repairs of fistula cases through two main strategies.

Firstly, it is to strengthen routine fistula repair integrated into hospital services, and secondly to organise fistula repair camps in selected areas to accelerate the clearing of the backlog of fistula cases in the community.

In Ghana, it is estimated that about 800 women die annually due to pregnancy and birth-related complications and for every maternal death, 20 more pregnant women and girls suffer from pregnancy and birth-related complications, some of which are debilitating, including obstetric fistula.

The underlying causes of fistula include poverty, lack of awareness, poor health-seeking behaviour, poor referral system because of poor transportation network, and scarcity of skilled birth attendants.

Launch

Launching the partnership in Accra on (Wednesday), Mrs Akufo-Addo said obstetric fistula was one of the worst things that could happen to any woman.

She said pregnancy was physiological and should follow a natural course until the child was born; yet, a significant number of pregnancies would become complicated and require urgent intervention, to save the life of the mother and the unborn baby.  

“Anticipated joy turns into a very difficult situation.

A sense of shame and worthlessness ensue.

This is worsened by the stigma and discrimination from their own spouses, families and community members.

These women are ostracised and consequently lose their livelihood,” she said. 

She called on the PEFIG partnership, together with all stakeholders, to work hard to bridge the gap between current fistula repairs and the actual number of women who suffered from fistula.

She commended the UNFPA, Ghana Health Services (GHS), World Food Programme (WFP), Access and Fidelity banks, MTN, AT (Airtel/Tigo), the media and others for their determination to end obstetric fistula in the country.

She pledged her office’s continuous support to the partnership and urged other partners, particularly corporate organisations and philanthropists, to join the partnership so that “together, we will fight fistula and restore dignity to our women and girls”.

The Ag. Chief Executive of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr Frank Owusu Sekyere, said obstetric fistula remained a challenge that required collective efforts, especially in deprived communities.

He said currently, fistula surgeons were being trained yearly to augment the pool of doctors across the nation.

The Director of the Family Health Division of the GHS, Dr Kofi Issah, said the service was ready to partner and also to build capacities to deal with fistula in the country.

He was hopeful that by 2030, there would be no fistula cases in the country.

Surgeries

The UNFPA Country Representative, Dr Wilfred Ochan, said fistula could be repaired through surgery; however, the rate of repair was low in the country with only 100 cases that got repaired out of the estimated 1,300 new cases per year.

He said the high number of new cases against the backdrop of a low rate of repair in a year was creating a high buildup of fistula in the communities.

So far, through the partnership, he said 15 victims had gone through surgery, while another 15 were awaiting surgery soon with the Office of the First Lady sponsoring 20 of the cases.

The Chairman of the National Obstetric Task Force (NOTT), Dr Gabriel Ganyaglo, said there was the need to step up repairs in the country, saying the partnership would afford the task force to repair hopefully 200 cases every year.

source by graphic news