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Living with Fistula, The Ordeal of the Ghanaian woman

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“When my sickness happened, I prayed for death, People who came to see me would spit on their way out to signify that I smell badly. They said I smelt like death. I shed a lot of tears” These are the words of 30 years Old Makida Nyariga a victim of Obstetric Fistula

We know it can be prevented and treated, yet through no fault of theirs, thousands of our women continue to be isolated in their communities and suffer alone for trying to give life.

Obstetric fistula is one of the most devastating consequences of unequal access to health care during pregnancy and childbirth. It is estimated that at least 2 million women in Africa, Asia. The Arab region and Latin America are living with the condition, with about 50,000 to 100,100 new cases each year.

In areas with high maternal mortality, fistula may occur at a rate of two to three cases per 1,000 Pregnancies.  The persistence of this conditions is a compelling indication that the health systems in many developing countries are failing to meet the needs of women, especially the most poorest and most vulnerable.

Although the magnitude of obstetric fistula in Ghana is not quite known the prevalence alone highlights the persistent global inequalities in access to health care and basic human rights. Most women who develop obstetric Fistula, which is a hole in the birth canal usually caused by prolonged, obstructed labour, remain untreated for their entire lives. The conditions can easily recur in women and girls whose obstetric Fistula has been surgically treated but who receive little or no medical follow-up and then become pregnant again.

The United Nations Population Fund launched the campaign to end fistula globally in 2003 but Ghana joined the campaign in 2005. Partnering with a range of stakeholders, Ministry of health, Ghana Health Service, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.NGO and others, UNFPA has tried over the years to prevent the harm, heal wounds and renew the hopes of affected women.

Despite this intervention much more desires to be achieved, in a report published by the UNFPA “Living with Fistula the untold stories” one would be amazed by the horrifying experience that some women go through.

“This sickness is slow poison, it is not easy. People do not see it but it hurting you” This is how 42 years old Fati Salifu of Bambilla described her ordeal with obstetric fistula.

Many have suffered and a lot more continue to suffer. To be able to put an end to maternal death the topic of Fistula has to be given urgent attention. As a nation, the time has come to put an end to obstetric fistula and address the factors that perpetuate it.

This disease is curable and to end it, we need to ensure universal access to three most cost effective interventions that can prevent maternal deaths and child birth injuries like Fistula: Family planning, a trained health professional with midwifery skills at every childbirth; and timely access to high quality emergency obstetric and new born care.

It is important that we tackle the underlying societal drivers of fistula including poverty, socioeconomic and gender inequality, child marriage and early child bearing.

Policy makers, health officials and affected communities need to lend their voice to draw the attention to issues of fistula.

Towards the attainment of Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages) One key issues that cannot be left out is Obstetric Fistula.

Fifteen years from now each woman who is a victim of obstetric Fistula should share their success story just like Fulera Yakubu “The surgery was successful and I was elated. My family members and Friends welcomed me back home with happiness. My husband also asked that we get back together again but I refused”


By Dzikunu Richard M  
Young Leader, Women Deliver:  
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