Girls and women living with fistula can now heave a sigh of relief. An Obstetric fistula is an abnormal connection between a woman’s genital tract and the urinary tract (vesicovaginal fistula) or between the genital tract and the rectum (rectovaginal fistula), predominantly resulting from obstructed labor.
Dr. Ngock George, lead surgeon and clinical supervisor of the Hope and Healing International-HHI project emphasized that obstetric fistula is not a myth but a health condition that can be prevented and also treated.
Dr. Ngock made the assurance during a capacity building workshop for some 30 doctors and nurses on fistula diagnosis and confirmation. The workshop held at the Baptist Center in Bamenda on November 17, 2022, with participants drawn from CBC Health Services facilities seeing and treating obstetric fistula in three regions of the country namely: Adamawa, West and North West.
The workshop covered the burden of fistula, causes, risk factors and prevention, diagnosis, classification, treatment, pre and post operation care, follow up of post repair girls and referral pathway.
In an overview of the project, Ayenjika Yasmine, Project Officer of the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Females with Fistula (SEEFF) project said, the burden of fistula is greatest in the northern part of Cameroon with a long-standing culture for early marriages and in the Southwest and Northwest regions due to the waging crisis that is pushing many women and young girls into unorthodox circumstances such as early marriages, prostitution and rape. She said victims of fistula are mostly characterized by poverty, limiting them from seeking medical care. Victims of fistula, Yasmine continued, are enveloped in shame and sometimes rejection and isolation, the reason why community sensitization is key in identifying and bringing them to the hospital.
“Half a million women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab States region, Latin America and the Caribbean are estimated to be living with fistula, with new cases developing every year. Yet fistula is almost entirely preventable,” Mboni Loveline, Wound Care Supervisor noted in her presentation on the Causes/Risk Factors and Prevention of Fistula.
Drawing inspiration from the book of Luke, Rev. Fongoh Godwin, Chaplain at the CBCHS Central Administration admonished the doctors and nurses to treat females with fistula with love and compassion.
Rev. Ekwo Emmanuel, HHI Coordinator on behalf of the Director of Health Services and SEEPD Program Manager, encouraged the doctors and nurses to understand that they are a critical partner to the project. Although HHI focuses on girls 0-18 years, the Project Coordinator advised the doctors and nurses not to leave any woman with fistula behind. “Refer and treat everyone,” Rev. Ekwo directed.
Hope and Healing International (HHI) is combination of five projects running under the Socio Economic Empowerment of People with Disabilities (SEEPD) program of the CBC Health Services with focus on assisting children and young girls with disabilities seek hospital-based care in three regions namely: Northwest, West and Admawa. HHI Canada is funding these activities for one year running from June 2022 to July 2023.