Fistula is a reproductive health condition, among the most destructive and demeaning conditions for women worldwide. Most women with fistula suffer constant incontinence, shame, social segregation, and health problems. They are unable to fully participate in development activities due to the stigma that comes with the condition. The nature of the condition varies, it manifests as an abnormal hole or opening between a woman’s birth canal and the urinary tract or the rectum causing the women’s inability to control urine and stool.
In most cases, a woman with a fistula, who is perpetually leaking urine and sometimes faeces, is often rejected by her husband and shunned by her ‘friends’ because of her foul smell. Most women suffering from fistula see themselves as walking dead. The condition stops their lives. It cripples them from working towards their goal and family and some even suffer from depression. These women have so much shame and fear.
According to experts, fistula can affect anyone but it’s most common in women in their 40s. Experts say that fistula cases can go down if the government can be able to eliminate Gender-based violence, rape, defilement, early marriage, and Female Genital Mutilation. The government should come up with a mechanism of making sure that all women deliver with the help of qualified medical attendants. Midwife-led care models improve health outcomes, increase patient satisfaction and reduce costs. While midwives are often relegated to the periphery of health care, all evidence suggests they should be at the center.
Data by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that in most cases fistula affects women in sub-Saharan countries. Statistics by WHO displays that each year between 50, 000 to 100, 000 women worldwide are affected by obstetric fistula, and 2 million live with it. More than 90 percent of these women live in low-income countries.
In most cases, a woman with a fistula in sub-Saharan Africa doesn’t know what a fistula is or that it’s treatable with surgery. And if she does, she is far from any hospital and doesn’t have money for – or access to – transportation, let alone the treatment money plus postoperative care.
But for now, The Flying Doctors Society of Africa in partnership with M-PESA Foundation and Royal Media Services has agreed to work with the government towards preventing and providing regular access to fistula treatment across the Country. They all rallied around the tagline “Fistula Free Generation”
The organizations have helped women fight against fistula. Data by the Flying Doctors Society of Kenya shows that about 1,800 patients have for now directly benefited from the initiative.
During Flying Doctors Society of Kenya fistula medical camps, women who do not qualify for corrective surgery but have urine incontinence are referred for other appropriate treatment such as physiotherapy to resolve the condition.
The partnership has ensured that women suffering from fistula are allowed to be reabsorbed into society and live their lives to the fullest. This has given mothers hope as its ensuring that fistula is not bringing shame or distorting the mental health of women and girls.
The development of obstetric fistula is directly linked to one of the major causes of maternal mortality: obstructed labour. It is one of the most serious and tragic childbirth injuries. And it is almost entirely preventable. It’s estimated that approximately 1,000 women in Kenya develop fistula every year, and only 60% can receive care.
It is also projected that more than 2 million young women live with untreated obstetric fistula in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Fistula makes these women live in shame some of them experiencing depression hence becoming outcasts. Fistula can be eradicated if only we can improve health care. Treating women suffering from this condition means that more women will be involved in development activities either directly or indirectly hence reducing the number of dependents.
The global campaign to end Fistula is led by The United Nations Population Fund UNFPA, they aim to transform the lives of vulnerable women and girls. The 20-year-old campaign represents a global commitment to fistula prevention and holistic treatment, including surgical repair and social reintegration and rehabilitation.
This year’s theme for the international day is “20 years on – progress but not enough! Act now to end fistula by 2030!”