Hundreds of Nigerian women had corrective surgery during UN’s ‘Fistula Fortnight’

8 March 2005

More than 500 women had corrective surgery for a debilitating injury suffered during childbirth and a dozen more surgeons were trained in its treatment during “Fistula Fortnight,” which ended at the weekend, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said.

More than 500 women had corrective surgery for a debilitating injury suffered during childbirth and a dozen more surgeons were trained in its treatment during “Fistula Fortnight,” which ended at the weekend, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said.

Lack of medical intervention during prolonged, obstructed labour damages the mother's soft pelvic tissues and creates a hole, or fistula, in her bladder and/or rectum. The injury is usually fatal for the baby, while causing severe physical and emotional trauma to the mother, who may then suffer from incontinence, infections and nerve damage.

In Nigeria between 400,000 and 800,000 women have the preventable, treatable condition, especially in the north, UNFPA said.

“Women living with fistula put a human face on the necessity of having good maternal health care,” said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid. “The ‘Fistula Fortnight’ has helped us address the tremendous backlog of patients and care for those in need. Together we can end fistula by strengthening maternal health systems.”

In addition to treating 545 women, the two-week campaign trained another 16 doctors, mainly Nigerian, as well as nurses and social workers, at four renovated hospitals.

The event is part of a UNFPA-led global “Campaign to End Fistula,” launched in 2003 and carried out with local organizations and mainly European donors. The Campaign in more than 35 countries in Africa, South Asia and the Arab States focuses on fistula prevention. It also treats the women who are affected and trains social workers in ways of helping survivors reintegrate successfully into their communities.

Mustafa Lawal, one of the trainee surgeons at the fistula centre in Kebbi State, said the women who came in for treatment felt hopeless at first but changed to a positive attitude afterwards.

“For 20 years I had been leaking,” said 60-year-old Aminatu Liman, who developed a fistula after three days of labour to deliver her third child, a stillborn son. She was treated on the second day of the Fortnight and was recovering well this week at a hospital in Sokoto.

“I’m very happy all the inconvenience is gone,” she added. “I’m so grateful.”

 

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