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The Essential Relief International (ERI), a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), on Thursday called for strong partnership to support government’s efforts to prevent, repair and completely eliminate obstetric fistula in Ghana.
Obstetric fistula, which is not infectious or contagious, is an abnormal hole that develops between the vagina and rectum or bladder as a result of prolonged labour during childbirth, and causes women to leak urine or faeces or both.
The condition is preventable and can only be cured through surgery.
The ERI called on all kind-hearted Ghanaians, NGOs, corporate and religious bodies, and philanthropists to come on board to champion the fight against obstetric fistula in Ghana.
Madam Evelyn Eduful, the Chief Operations Director of ERI, at the International Day to end Obstetric Fistula held in Bolgatanga, emphasized that “Together, we can end Obstetric fistula in Ghana.”
She spoke on the theme: “Obstetric Fistula is a Human Right Violation. End it now.”
Madam Eduful noted that both the Holy Bible and Holy Quran teach that children were gifts from God. “However, in our part of the world, the right to bring forth a new life, which is supposed to be a source of joy can rather turn out to be the opposite,” she said.
The Operations Director said women suffering from obstetric fistula were in all regions of Ghana, and disclosed that the highest prevalence was in the Northern, Ashanti, Western, Central and Upper East Regions.
“Women who develop obstetric fistula conditions lose their confidence and self -esteem because of the unpleasant body odor, chronic skin diseases, blisters and sores they have to endure. Worse of all is the stigmatization and isolation in society, making them depressed and shy to come out to get help and treatment.”
She said the estimated cost of surgery of one obstetric fistula case was between 400 to 500 United States dollars, “thankfully, this is covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme. However, the challenge is that there are limited resources to cover all affected patients and this is where support from non-state actors becomes very critical.”
Madam Eduful commended the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and its partners, the National Obstetric Fistula Taskforce and the Ministry of Health for launching the 100 in 100 initiative, which aims to raise money and other resources to repair 100 obstetric fistulas in 100 days.
She used the opportunity to admonished teenagers not to indulge or have unprotected sex to avoid teenage pregnancy, which is one of the causes of obstetric fistula.
“It is also important that all pregnant women attend antenatal and deliver their babies in clinics and hospitals.”
Dr Josephat Nyuzaghl, the Deputy Director in charge of Public Health at the Upper East Regional Health Directorate, noted that even though there was treatment for fistula, the regions in northern Ghana had no capacity to treat such cases.
He said the Upper East Region had over the years relied on Specialist Obstetrician and Gynecologists outside the Region who come on outreaches to support women with the condition.
Dr Nyuzaghl observed that most women with the condition struggled to deliver at home and were not successful, and eventually came to the hospital.
“Most of these women turn to have a double jeopardy, because when the labour is so prolonged, they end up losing the baby in addition to developing the fistula condition.”
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