MORE than 12,000 fistula patients were treated through Amref Health Africa Tanzania’s spearheaded fight against the condition.
For over 15 years, Amref Health Africa Tanzania has spearheaded the fight against the devastating effect of women suffering from fistula, including the death of their babies, uncertainty of having more children, divorce, depression, stigma, social isolation and deepening poverty.
According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, the number of women seeking fistula treatment at various health facilities has dropped by more than 30 per cent compared to 2015 and 2019.
The ministry says that in 2015, 1337 women received treatment for the condition while in 2016, the number increased slightly to 1,356 and in 2017 it dropped to 1060.
“In 2018, the number of women who went for the service dropped to 900 and last year 852 received medication,” the ministry says.
Amref Africa Health Tanzania Country Representative Dr Florence Temu, said that his institution mobilised resources and managed to treat 12,557 fistula patients, especially women in remote areas who give birth at home without being attended by medical personnel.
Dr Temu further explained that, obstetric fistula is a childbirth injury that destroys a woman’s life.
It leaves her incontinent, humiliated and too often shunned by her community and even divorce in their marriage…fighting fistula means ending gender and health inequalities which affect social economic participation.
“Fistula is usually caused by injury or surgery, but they can also result from an infection or inflammation,” she explained.
To succeed in the efforts, Dr Temu said that Amref works closely with the health ministry, in a holistic approach to ensure obstetric fistula becomes a history in Tanzania.
She added that the efforts include striving to primarily prevent its occurrence, providing treatment support for women who end up with fistula and ensure their social-economic integration to the community.
Dr Temu noted that, Amref has so far supported the training of 191 health care workers who were dispatched to at least 41 hospitals countrywide with some psychological support.
Ms Asteria Mabirika, (54) a resident of Chananja village in Mbarika Ward, Misungwi District in Mwanza Region, narrates how fistula led to unimaginable segregation and sexual exploitation by sexual conmen.
Ms Mabirika remarried and was divorced by four different men, including traditional healers with promises of curing her in vain.
“After losing my first child, in 1987, I had a second pregnancy and had a prolonged labor with the child being obstructed to come out with all assistance, my child died in the process of giving birth,” she recalls.
A traditional healer who assured Ms Mabirika of a cure if she could sleep with him ended up living with him and gave birth to a baby girl and she later got another pregnancy but she miscarried.
“I left the traditional healer and got married to another man and was divorced due to offensive urine smell. I remarried to another man but was also divorced due to the same problem. I went to another traditional healer who requested for 50,000/- for herbs, but they didn’t help. I remarried but divorced due to abuse.”
Speaking during the commemoration of the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula (IDEOF), Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu called for concerted efforts between the government and other stakeholders to end the condition.
The minister, however said that there are about 2500 women who get fistula every year, with less than 50 pc getting treatment.
Article first published on dailynews.co.tz