Essential Relief Commemorates World Fistula Day in Upper East Region
An obstetric Fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labour, thereby leaving a woman incontinent of urine or faeces or both. Obstructed labour that goes unattended could last up to six or seven days. This condition has devastating physical, social, economic, emotional and psychological consequences for a woman’s life.
From ERI’s recent findings the occurrence of the fistula condition in the country are mainly lack of education and some cultural systems that prohibit expectant mothers to seek medical interventions. Many women refuse to go for antenatal care and also seek the services of professional birth attendants in health facilities because of their beliefs.
A community theatre depicting the health risk of not seeking early medical attention such as fistula at Upper East (Photo credit)
For instance, some expectant mothers do not go to the hospital to deliver and rather prefer to deliver at home to prove that they have not cheated on their husbands before. Such belief systems lead to prolonged labour which can cause some women to suffer obstetric fistula as a result.
Some Ghanaian citizens still don’t understand the essence of a hospital although antenatal care to delivery services are free. Some people believe that women who give birth at home are not brave, hence with such mentality encourages some pregnant women to deliver at home instead of a health facility.
During a home delivery, the unprofessional birth attendants don’t even know the position the baby is coming and when they keep asking the woman to push, it leads to prolonged labour, resulting in complications. Most of the fistula cases reported are due to home delivery.
23rd May is World Fistula Day. To commemorate that day, Essential Relief embarked on a trip to Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region of Ghana to sensitise women of reproductive age on the Fistula condition and how to prevent it.
We organized a seminar on World Fistula day, where a play was acted by some locals to bring some theatrical awareness on the dangers of obstetric fistula and not seeking early medical attention. A team of four people embarked on this donational trip.
Miss Evelyn Eduful spoke on the theme, “Obstetric Fistula is a Human Right Violation. End it now”. She said that both the Holy Bible and Holy Quran teach that children were gifts from God. However in our part of the world, the right to bring forth a new life, which is supposed to be a source of joy can rather turn out to be the opposite. Women suffering from this condition are in all regions in Ghana and the highest prevalence are in the Northern, Ashanti, Western, Central and Upper East Regions.
In her speech, she said women who develop obstetric fistula condition lose their self-esteem because of the unpleasant body odour, chronic skin diseases, blisters and sores they have to endure. Worse of all is the stigmatization and isolation in society, making them depressed and shy to get help and treatment.
She said the estimated cost of an obstetric fistula surgery was between 400 and 500 US dollars, “thankfully, this is covered by the NHIS. However the challenge is that there are limited resources to cover all affected patients and this is where support from non-state actors becomes very critical.”
She lauded the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and its partners, the National Obstetric Fistula Taskforce and the Ministry of Health for launching the 100 in 100 initiative which aims to raise money and other resources to repair 100 obstetric fistulas in 100 days.
She again used the forum as an opportunity to advise teenagers not to indulge or have unprotected sex to avoid teenage pregnancy which is one of the main causes of Obstetric Fistula. “it is also important that all pregnant women attend antenatal and deliver their babies in clinics and hospitals.”