Obstetric fistula, otherwise called Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF), is a nightmare in the woman’s world. It is estimated that two million women suffer from obstetric fistula globally.
But Nigeria has the highest prevalence of VVF in the world, with 800,000 women living with the problem and about 20,000 new cases occurring annually. It could even mean death.
Statistically, 90 percent of these cases go untreated. This implies that about 55 women are infected by VVF and 18,000 cases are untreated daily.
VVF is an abnormal hole between the bladder or rectum and the vagina characterized by continuous and uncontrollable leakage of urine and/or faeces following childbirth. Obstructed labour without timely intervention is by far the most common cause of obstetric fistula.
With these great numbers of women suffering from this health nightmare, it indeed becomes a phenomenon that must be addressed.
The scourge has reached a stage where all well-meaning individuals need to rise up to tackle it.
Surprisingly, as critical as the situation is, majority of Nigerians are ignorant of VVF. When it happens to their colleagues or relatives or even wives, they see it as a sign of punishment from the ‘gods’, or a consequence of promiscuity.
This development propelled a celebrated Nollywood actress, Stephanie Linus, and the Fistula Care Plus Nigeria, with the support of the Federal Government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to premier a movie, ‘Dry’, to narrate the ordeal faced by women, majority of whom are from the northern part of the country.
The movie reveals child/early marriage, religion beliefs which prevent pregnant women from accessing medical care (antenatal) and the obnoxious African culture that forces them to resort to the use of traditional way of delivery, as major causes of VVF.
‘Dry’ is a movie based on the true story of Zara and Halima who find themselves in the same cultural trap regardless of their backgrounds. They struggle to give meaning to their lives.
Speaking during the premier at Silverbird Cinema in Abuja, the country manager of Fistula Care Plus Nigeria, Dr. Habib Sadauki, and Linus stressed the need to improve on primary health care system in the country.
Sadauki said; “We are at a critical time in Nigeria, where we can make even greater impact so that more women living with fistula can be treated. We also must help prevent fistula from happening in the first place.”
Linus explained that women were going through a lot in the country, but sometimes people pretend not to see their situations, stressing the need for a collective effort to address the problem.
According to her, the culture has relegated women to the background, takes away their voice and right to life as human beings. “The culture has made them to be like objects of exchange for wealth/money, sold into slavery for sexual pleasure and baby making purposes”, the actress stated.
“When your childhood, your innocence is taken away from you, you can never get it back. Allow them to be children, let them grow up, so that they can make positive decisions about what happens to their body, what happens to their lives, and they will become more productive.
“Give them access to education, good medical care and when you give them all of this, you know you are building women, who are sustainable and can also be able to take care of the family.
“We have all the fantastic laws that we need to be enforced, we need the parents to play their roles; we need the medical part of it, doctors and hospitals to also play their roles.
“We ourselves need to change our perception of things, of cultural practices that are not moving us forward as a nation; even women are also to be blamed. We are complaining about men, but we are also causing the problems for our own fellow women; so all of these people need to be aware.
“The first point of action is to bring it to the table; we don’t want to keep it in the background, because it is never going to solve any problem. It is not good to deny or pretend that we don’t have such in our society, but we are bringing it to the forefront, so we can talk about it and move forward especially in this 21st century.
“It is not only in Nigeria, it happens across Africa, across Asia; it is a world problem and that is why we want to shine enough search light, and that also it is not a northern thing, something you can find it across Nigeria”.