The United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, says over 12,000 new cases of Vesico Vaginal Fistula, VVF, are recorded annually in Nigeria.
Erika Goldson, UNFPA’s deputy representative, disclosed this at a high-level conference on obstetric fistula organised by the Kaduna State Ministry of Health on Saturday, December 21, 2019.
She added that an estimated 150,000 young women and girls in the country are living with the ailment untreated.
Vesico-vaginal fistula is a serious disability that can be experienced by women after childbirth. It is defined as a hole that develops between the vagina and the bladder, resulting in uncontrollable leaking of urine through the vagina.
The most common cause of vesico-vaginal fistula is obstructed labor, early marriage, poverty, and women’s limited control over the use of family resources. Women and girls with this disability are often abandoned by their husbands and isolated from the community due to the smell and associated shame of urine leakage.
However, this type of disability can be avoided by changing the attitudes of the community to women. Better nutrition, delaying first pregnancy, using a partograph during labor, and the availability of emergency obstetric care can also reduce the likelihood of having the disability.
But for those who already have this condition, understanding and support of husbands and the community is needed in order for them to be restored to good health. – Source
Goldson attributed the alarming figure to the ineffectiveness of the Nigerian health systems to provide universal access to emergency obstetric care for women and girls who develop complications during labour.
She noted that this is compounded by cultural preferences and community ignorance of risks in-home deliveries and called for more investment in the prevention of new cases and treatment of existing ones.
The UNFPA deputy representative revealed that Nigeria accounts for about 7.5 per cent of the global fistula burden, a figure she said was totally unacceptable.
According to the global body, obstetric fistula is preventable and can largely be avoided by delaying pregnancy, ensuring skilled birth attendants during child delivery, and providing timely access to obstetric care for all women who develop complications during childbirth.
It is estimated that between 400,000 and 800,000 women live with VVF in Nigeria, a medical condition that allows for the continuous and involuntary discharge of urine and faeces by the victim.
In addition, there are thousands of new cases recorded each year, with Kaduna State alone accounting for 12,000 existing cases in the country.
Wife of the state governor, Mrs Aisha El-Rufai, who was also at the conference advocated for strong legislation that would protect VVF victims from discrimination by their families and the society.
On her part, the Commissioner of Human Services and Social Development, Hafsat Baba, spoke about the purpose of the conference.
She explained that it was organised to raise awareness about the tragic childbirth injuries that incapacitates thousands of mainly poor and uneducated young adolescents who live in rural areas with poor access to quality maternal healthcare.
Other speakers at the event highlighted various ways of ending the pain, healing wounds, and restoring the dignity of VVF victims and called for concerted action.