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A new dawn for women suffering with fistula: 150 women, others, receive UNFPA’s fistula care in Maiduguri

A new dawn for women suffering with fistula: 150 women, others, receive UNFPA’s fistula care in Maiduguri

August 2018 – Maiduguri, Borno State.

For the women who have witness abduction, rape and childbirth in Sambisa Forest, news of UNFPA’s planned fistula campaign in Borno State was greeted with a sense of relief and jubilation. It is worth noting that Sambisa Forest is a place where primary health facility is none existent, and where vesico vaginal fistula abound. Despite the terrible quality of life occasioned by the insurgency, women in the various IDP Camps in Maiduguri face additional layers of challenges, such as the hash discrimination in the crowded tents due to fistula experience.

Among them is Bintu, a 22 year woman, who came with fistula after delivering her baby in the bush with no medical assistance or primary healthcare in sight. Today, she is among the 150 women that were screened for repairs. Instrumental to the UNFPA’s fistula project in Borno State is the Government of Canada, who has supported the drive with up 20 million Naira worth of funding in order for the UNFPA to embark on renovation for the Fistula Theatre and bringing it up to a world class standard for the repair project in Borno state.

The new improved Maiduguri Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) Repair Centre has 50-bed capacity; equipped with 32 sets, consisting of labour and delivery beds, hospital beds/mattresses, operating theatre tables and gynecology examination tables. UNFPA also provided consumables for the exercise.

Further to this, surgeons who are experts in repairing fistula were brought in by UNFPA from Paris and some parts of Nigeria to support the massive repairs for two weeks. This exercise saw  57 women receive surgical repairs without leaking. At an organized handing-over of equipment and unveiling of the renovated theatre event, the representative of the Ambassador Canada in Nigeria, and the Ambassador of Korea to Nigeria, Mr Lee In Tae, the Country Director of KOICA and UNFPA Nigeria Deputy Representative Dr. Eugene Kongnyuy were all hosted by His Excellency, Governor Kashim Shettima to commission and receive the items on behalf of the people of Borno State.

The Korean Ambassador to Nigeria, Lee In Tae noted that the health project will not only repair fistula among women, but also provide them with vocational training and socioeconomic empowerment. In his address, he mentioned that the 32 sets of hospital equipment will serve the needs of 30,000 people for three months.

 “This fistula repair project could also save many of the hundreds of thousands of women in Nigeria, who die each year from complication of pregnancy or childbirth,” the Ambassador said, noting further that, “With the excellent cooperation between Nigeria and Korea, the commissioning of fistula theatre project in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital will provide basic maternal and reproductive health care services.”

The Chief Medical Director of State Specialists Hospital, Dr. Laraba Bello told the Korean Ambassador that 120 women are on the waiting list for fistula repairs at the commissioned theatre project. She said the fistula surgeons and neurologists brought in by UNFPA from Germany, France and Nigeria successfully performed repairs of fistula on 57 women at the VVF centre.

While 250 women have been mobilised for fistula repairs across the state as part of the project, the surgeons however made over a dozen referrals, before any other repairs could be performed. “Dr. Bello and the UNFPA attributed fistula to five factors, which include, early childbirth, inadequate skilled birth attendants and poor access to quality caesarean section services,” Dr. Kongnyuy noted, “as well as the poor access to health care system and utilization of family planning services, coupled with a weak girl child education, all of which exacerbate fistula in the country.” Dr. Kongnyuy remarked further that there are few policies on fistula at the federal, state or local government level dedicated to prevention or eradication of obstetric fistula in Nigeria, which further complicated an already challenging situation.

During the handing over of equipment by Ambassador Tae, the Governor His Excellency Kashim Shettima said that women and children bear the brunt of Boko Haram insurgency.  He stated that the nine-year insurgency has rendered the State with 54,911 widows and 52,311 orphans. He mentioned further that the fistula repair project will add value to the development of the girl-child education and empowerment of women.

He particularly stressed on the condition of three women had been in hospital for over 20 years suffering from fistula before the commissioning of the repair theatre project. Governor Shettima applauded the efforts of the UNFPA and the donor partners, while assuring all parties of his commitment to partnering with UNFPA and thanked the donors for coming to support the state at their times of need.

The fistula campaign was wrapped up with seminar at Abuja, in which the Hon. Minister of Health and the Minister of State Ministry of Budget and National Planning, experts on fistula and the three foreign surgeons made presentations. Other dignitaries at the event were heads of NGOs and youths Organizations. The Minister of State, Ministry of Budget and National Planning pledged that government will support repairs of women with fistula from the Presidential North East Rehabilitations Funds.