Chief Iyeme Efem, Country Programme Manager USAID Fistula Care Project says the welfare and wellbeing of women should not be dictated by backward cultural beliefs and myths.
He said Fistula has nothing to do with witch craft. “It is entirely a result of complications in childbirth,” he said in response to a video shown as part of activities marking the International Day to end Fistula in Abakaliki.
May 23 marks the annual International Day to End Fistula (IDEOF). Set aside by the United Nations, the day is meant to rally support and draw attention to activities targeting the elimination of fistula around the world. Annual commemorations help to raise awareness and remove taboos and misconceptions around fistula, with the goal of alleviating the burden on persons affected by the condition.
An obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labour, leaving a woman incontinent of urine or feces or both. For women with obstructed labour, labour that goes unattended, the labour can last up to six or seven days.
According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the theme of this year’s IDEOF, “Hope, healing, and dignity for all,” is, at its heart, a call to realise the fundamental human rights of all women and girls everywhere, with a special focus on those most left behind, excluded and shunned by society.
Efem, also said in a statement to mark this year’s International Day to End Obstetric Fistula that the theme ‘captures the essence of the work we do.’
He said: “Firstly, we need to understand that women with fistula are stigmatized and marginalized within the society. The theme for this year aptly reflects the reversal of their situation through the services the US Government offers.
“The USAID FC+ project offers them HOPE that their condition is not hopeless and they can have succour.”
FC+, in conjunction with the Federal Government of Nigeria, state governments of Ebonyi, Katsina, Oyo, and Sokoto States, as well as other partners organised a set of activities to create awareness on fistula, commonly known as VVF, and commemorate the day in Nigeria.
In Abuja, there was an English-language nationwide live radio discussion. Guests will include: The Minister of Health Professor Isaac Adewole; USAID Nigeria Director for Health, Population and Nutrition, Dr. Nancy Lowenthal; expert fistula surgeon, Professor Oladosu Ojengbede; Country Project Manager of EngenderHealth FC+, Chief Iyeme Efem.
At the state level in Ebonyi, Katsina, Oyo, and Sokoto, EngenderHealth and state governments are at the moment conducting additional awareness campaigns via government radio stations.
In Oyo State, a fistula repair campaign to provide free fistula treatment to women living with fistula is going on. This campaign will restore health to clients who receive repairs and contribute to the overall campaign to clear the large backlog of existing fistula cases in Nigeria.
In Sokoto, there is on-going mini-town hall meeting to enlighten and sensitise community leaders at the grass root level on the importance of prevention and treatment of obstetric fistula.
In Ebonyi State, community-based organisations, school children, nursing and midwifery, key political stakeholders and the national fistula centre conducted a rally to create awareness on fistula prevention and treatment.
According to Chief Efem, “It is very fulfilling to see the collaboration between our project and community partners in sensitizing the public to prevent fistula and mobilization of clients to benefit from the free repair activities at sites supported by our project.”