Fistula Not Death Sentence, Say Experts (1)
…But Nigeria Records 12 New Cases Yearly
HEALTH experts have said that fistula or Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) is not a death sentence, rather it can be prevented and treated.
The experts spoke during a Journalists’ Orientation on basic facts about fistula, in a project funded by Fistula CarePlus titled, ‘Prevention and Treatment of Fistula,’ held in Kano.
The experts include Country Project Manager, Healthcare Plus, Dr Habib Sadauki, a fistula Surgeon from Laure Fistula Centre in Murtala Muhammed Teaching Hospital Kano, Dr Amir Imam Yola and Clinical associate, Healthcare Plus, Dr Suleiman Zakariya.
Sadauki stated that fistula is an abnormal hole between bladder and rectum. When such happens, he said the affected persons experience uncontrollable leakage of urine usually the following childbirth. This is as a result of prolonged obstructed labour and worse in young women.
According to Wikipedia, a fistula or Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) is an abnormal connection between two hollow spaces technically, two epithelial surfaces, such as blood vessels, intestine, or other hollow organs. Fistulas are usually caused by injury or surgery, but they can also result from an infection or inflammation. Fistulas are generally a disease condition, but they may be surgically created for therapeutic reasons.
However, Sadauki called on affected persons to visit any of facilities across the country sponsored by Fistula Care Plus for free treatment.
He said: “Fistula can be repaired and treated through surgery and after the treatment the patient is expected to abstain from sex for six months.
“Fistula Care Plus in collaboration with Nigeria government provided 11 centres in 10 states in Nigeria for treatment and prevention, which include Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Bauch, Kwara, Oyo, Ebonyi and the Cross Rivers States. Other centres under construction are located in Jahun, Jigawa State, which will soon be completed. For now, 174 nurses and 32 doctors have been trained in the centres for proper treatment.”
Sadauki informed that many of the women, who suffer fistula are poor, live in a dirty environment and illiterate and do not know the importance of going to the hospital whenever they are pregnant or have the sickness.
“Fistula surgery is expensive and takes as much as N100, 000 per client and many of these clients cannot afford the surgery and treatment. But now, the treatment is free of charge and we want to use this opportunity to educate affected women especially those living in rural communities to visit any centre close to them,” he said.
Sadauki asked Nigerians to practice family planning, reduce stigmatisation among fistula patients, and pregnant women to attend antenatal sessions as these would help prevent fistula in the country.
“I encourage women to attend antenatal service and also use facilities for all delivery, where there are skilled attendants. We promote facility-based delivery with skilled attendants as the only option to fistula prevention and reduction of maternal mortality and morbidity. I encourage all communities in Nigeria to observe early warning signs of danger in pregnancy and refer pregnant women to hospitals for delivery without delay. This would help to prevent prolonged obstructed labour among women. Provision of adequate and proper nutrition for women is very important, even from local supplements to ensure optimum health of mother and child. Accept child spacing as it would give an opportunity for healthy mother and child.”
He said the programme is an opportunity to create community awareness about skilled attendance at all births and emergency obstetric care. “We encourage women to take advantage of government’s free maternal healthcare services for pregnant women and children below five years. Fistula is curable, clients become healthy and can bear children again.”
Sadauki advised Nigerians to avoid female genital cutting or mutilation as this would lead to fistula infections if an accident occurs. “Female genital cutting is any act that seeks to cut, add or interfere with the female genitalia or the genital organ for local, traditional or superstitious belief. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDs) and other transmissions diseases can be transmitted from one person to another during female genital cutting. One instrument is likely to be used for more than one person at a time without sterilisation or disinfection. Other blood-borne disease could also be transmitted through female genital cutting. Female genital cutting could also destroy a woman’s uterus or womb and cause permanent infertility among women.”
He counselled that a woman repaired of fistula can get better and still have children; therefore there should be no discrimination against fistula.
As fistula is curable and preventable, men were advised not to divorce their wives, but support them to seek healthcare.