Fistula is a maternal health condition that affects several women. In Kenya, statistics indicate that approximately 3,000 women develop fistula during birth. Amongst the causes of fistula include prolonged labor, obstructed labour, and bladder injury.
While several women often suffer the condition, very few can afford to cater for the medical procedure required to reverse the condition. Further, most medical insurance companies do not cover the costs of fistula repair despite covering maternity costs which makes the treatment more difficult to access. This often leaves several women helpless and condemned to living with the condition. The Flying Doctors Society of Africa (FDSA) has been the saving grace for several women. Through the support from M-Pesa Foundation, and other partners FDSA has been providing free corrective surgeries for women suffering from the condition changing the lives of hundreds of women.
In partnership with the UNFPA, Beyond Zero, M-Pesa Foundation and AMREF, FDSA held a weeklong medical camp at Kajiado District Hospital from 23rd to 29th May. This was the second free clinic hosted this year. The first was held in Kilifi County from 28th to 31st March 2022.
The Kajiado medical camp attracted over 100 women from all over the country indicating the extent to which the treatment needs to be made available and accessible. Patients such as Francisca Chepngéno travelled all the way from Bomet to access the service. Out of all the women who presented themselves to the clinic 129 were screened to determine whether they suffered fistula and whether it could be corrected. Out of these, 30 were admitted but only 29 went through surgery, one was referred to the gynecological clinic for cancer screening.
On the 28th April the medical camp was graced by the Hon. First lady of Kajiado County Edna Lenku, Ms. Angella Langat, Coordinator Beyond Zero, UNFPA Kenya Country Representative Anders Thomsen, AMREF Health Africa Amref Country Dr. Meshak Ndirangu, M-pesa Foundation Representative, Bonventure Kaduka and the Ms. Tanya Nduati, CEO FDSA. The entourage was met by a bunch of cheerful and grateful women.
For many of the beneficiaries, the access to treatment gives them a new lease of life. They can navigate their lives comfortably and are no longer worried about embarrassing themselves, or being shamed by community members, family, and friends. While the fistula may be a common occurrence, few are willing to be accommodative, understanding and/or supportive to the victims who suffer from it. The victims often suffer a lot of stigma, which affects their psychosocial health. Further, the thought of having a normal social life and not being left out of events and social gatherings is an icing on the cake for most of the women.
The medical camp was a great success. It not only improved the lives of 29 women but enlightened other community members. The need for improved access to and quality treatment of fistula and further sensitization within communities can no longer be ignored. With improved access and quality treatment, women suffering from the condition would be encouraged to seek help and the community would be more enlightened.