‘Now I can sit anywhere, “My life is back’
• Ebonyi woman who leaked for 50 years receives fistula intervention
• Experts emphasize antenatal care to check prevalence of VVF
For about 47 years, Nworogu Odo, a widow from Oron’a Amagu community in Ikwo Local Council of Ebonyi State, could not control the flow of her urine. She became a social outcast, forcing herself into a recluse. Odo did not know she had what health experts call Vesico Vagina Fistula popularly known as VVF.
Today, her life of solitude has changed for the better. Dancing and singing in the midst of other natives of Oron’a Amagu when a team of journalists visited the community, as part of a roundtable discussion on fistula prevention, Odo was clearly a different person.
Now in total control of her urine, Odo, a mother of two, stepped out of the crowd beaming with smiles to narrate how for many years she lived with the pain of the shameful condition.
“I had the condition for so long” she started, “during Biafra war.” “When I sit near people they run away from me because of the stench, but now I can sit anywhere.”
Profusely gracious to the Daughters of Virtue and Empowerment Initiative (DOVENET) that helped her access treatment at the National Fistula Center, NOFIC, Abakaliki with support from the USAID Fistula Care Plus project managed by EngenderHealth, she said “my life is back.”
She said she lived with the condition for a very long time because, “I did not know what was wrong with me and where I could go to for help” adding however that, “through the awareness program(health sensitization activities by DOVENET to her community) I was able to know that the condition can be cured”.
She is not alone. 41-year-old Ogbuagu Carolina, an indigene of Ekpaomaka community, also in Ikwo Local Council of Ebonyi State, had a happy story to share, too, when the team of journalists visited the Amaokpo playground, to witness a health sensitization session in motion.
Ogbuagu, a mother of nine, said she developed fistula at her ninth delivery. Unlike Odo, she lived with the condition for one year before benefitting from the community outreach programme. She said she got information on the free treatment fistula from her children, after they listened to community mobilizers trained by DOVENET speaking in the church.
“I never knew this problem can be healed,” she said.
In addition to the free treatment she received, Ogbuagu says she will no longer have more children. According to her, she now knows it is dangerous to her health.
Natives of the two communities said they have benefitted immensely from the health sensitization programmes. A woman from Amaokpo community Mrs. Ngele Elezandra, said: “Due to the sensitizations, female genital mutilation is no more reigning in my village.
Through the circumcision, women have been dying in my community during childbirth from bleeding. Ekoyo Augustus from Oron’a Amagu said he has also benefitted from the sensitization programs.
“Through these trainings, I have learnt about family planning. We have seen those that have fistula that has been cured, and now some of them have resumed their normal lives. We have been encouraged to avoid female circumcision and for our wives to deliver at the hospital.”
About 56 per cent of women in Ebonyi State is said to have fistula, according to a screening carried out in 12 out of 13 LGAs in Ebonyi State by the Chief Medical Director (CMD) National Obstetric Fistula Centre (NOFIC), Prof. Sunday Adeoye, in 2008.
Since then, the CMD while addressing the visiting journalists at the centre, noted that the incidence of new cases seen at the hospital has not reduced. “Before, what we used to see are women with many years of fistula- since 1980s, or since the Biafra war. But now the ones we see are fresh cases- women with eight months old fistula, six months, one year”, he said.
According to him, about 90 per cent of the cases seen are due to prolonged obstructive labour. Earlier on, Clinical Associate Fistula Care Plus, Dr. Suleiman Zakariya, said there is need to prevent fistula through prevention of prolonged obstructed labour.
Dr. Zakariya, who spoke at a media roundtable discussion stressed that prolonged obstructed labour is the main cause of fistula hence the need for women to attend ANC and deliver at hospital.
“During ANC, a doctor can feel the size of the pelvic to know if the pelvic is well developed for vaginal delivery”, he said. He mentioned that there is a need for hospitals to upgrade their emergency obstetric service and be ready to provide safe and quality Caesarian section operation.
“There is need to improve access to family planning, have client-friendly and affordable services, as well as use of Catheter and Partograph to monitor labour”, he added.
Reproductive health and family planning adviser, EngenderHealth, Jumoke Adekoba, said many pregnant women in Nigeria do not appreciate the importance and benefits of antenatal care (ANC).
According to her: “Many women attend ANC just to obtain a registration card in case of unexpected emergency. Some stay away from health facilities because of reasons such as poor provider attitudes, long waiting time at public facilities, financial difficulties, long distance to hospital, traditional belief and practices. A pregnant woman needs a minimum of four ANC visits as follows: 1st visit: before 16 weeks, 2nd visit: 24 -28 weeks, 3rd visit: 32 weeks and 4th visit: 36 weeks”.
She noted that ANC would help detect complications before it occurs and promptly manage the problem.