Ms Evelyn Eduful, the Executive Director of Essential Relief International (ERI), a non-governmental organization has called for a strong partnership to support the government’s efforts to prevent, repair, and eliminate obstetric fistula in the country.“Together, we can end fistula in Ghana,” Ms Eduful stated ahead of the commemoration of the United Nations International Day to end Obstetric Fistula.
She urged individuals and cooperate organizations to support the Government and NGO’s to adopt, repair, restore, and empower people with the challenge.
The 2020 observation of Day to End Obstetric Fistula is on the theme; “End Gender Inequality! End Health Inequalities! End Fistula Now”.
She said ERI project seeks to adopt women suffering from obstetric fistula, repair the condition through surgery, restore their dignity, and empower them economically.
She said women suffering from obstetric fistula were in all regions of the country but the highest prevalence was in the Northern, Ashanti, Western, Central, and Upper Regions.
Ms Eduful said a study carried out by the Ghana Health Service in 2015 estimated that about 1,300 new cases occur every year.
This study indicated that UNFPA and Ghana Health Service were only able to treat not more than 100 cases a year, leaving more than 1,000 women without care annually due to the difficulty in locating these women.
She said women, who developed 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.
“Most relatives and husbands of these women believe they are being punished for having extramarital affairs. These women are tagged as cursed and ungodly and therefore outcasts in society,” she added.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped women from going into labour, rather, this pandemic has worsened the case of women in these obstetric fistula prevalent areas as hospital visits decrease for fear of contracting the virus.
Ms Eduful said families were more likely to marry off daughters to alleviate the perceived burden of caring for them, especially in the anticipated economic fallout of the pandemic.
Obstetric Fistula is the disruption of or inadequate blood supply to the soft tissue between the vagina and the urinary tract or between the vagina and the rectum by compression of the fetal head during childbirth.
Mostly, this is borne out of the result of prolonged obstructed labour during childbirth and the adverse effect of this condition includes, leaking of urine and or feaces as a result of the compression, which leaves a permanent anomalous opening in the perineum.
Generally, this could happen to any woman during or after childbirth but it is particularly prevalent in poor, rural areas of Africa and Asia and a woman with fistula faces devastating physical and psychological consequences.
According to a report from the United Nations, “about 800 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications around the world every day.
For every woman who dies of maternal related causes, it is estimated that at least 20 experience maternal morbidity, one of the most severe forms of which is obstetric fistula”.