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Obstetric fistula is a medical condition

BY: Daily Graphic

Reports that over 1,300 new cases of obstetric fistula (OBF) occur every year in Ghana is a worrying development for our health managers.

Obstetric fistula occurs as a result of an abnormal hole that develops between the vagina,rectum and/or bladder following prolonged labour.

Health experts say this causes the patient to leak urine or faeces or both, a situation that has devastating physical, social, economic, emotional and psychological
consequences on a woman’s life.

Reports have it that many women who suffer this condition are unable to work outside the home or farm, thereby being unable to generate income.

The condition makes them lose their self-esteem and confidence, resulting in their husbands, families and communities shunning them.

The Daily Graphic is worried that there has not been deliberate efforts to educate women and Ghanaians in general on the debilitating effect of the disease.

Currently, there are only two main fistula centres in the country which offer dedicated OBF care.

These are the Mercy Women’s Catholic Hospital, Mankessim in the Central Region and the Tamale Fistula Centre, Tamale Central Hospital in the Northern Region.

This is unacceptable considering the prevalence of the disease, cases of which, we believe, are under-reported because the possibility is that a lot more victims may be managing the condition at home.

Some women are reported to have tried using herbs and other remedies to treat OBF.

This is not a helpful practice, according to medical experts, as OBF cannot be cured by such means.

In the midst of such state of hopelessness, the advice by the reproductive health expert with the UNFPA-Ghana, Dr Claudia Donkor, is reassuring and gives a sense of hope for women who are struggling with the disease.

The assurance that obstetric fistula is treatable is heart-warming and good news not only to the affected women, but their relations, particularly, their husbands who sometimes do not want to have anything to do with them.

Dr Donkor’s advice is timely, but the only challenge the Daily Graphic is foreseeing is access to the medical services, especially when there are only two facilities that offer dedicated service to such patients.

We acknowledge that the various regional hospitals offer some kind of service for patients, but for us, the key factor is dedicated service.

The dedicated service is crucial because of the uniqueness of the disease, which makes patients suffering from it isolate themselves because of the offensive
smell that comes with the disease.

We need concerted effort and the political will to end obstetric fistula and save our mothers, sisters and wives from this embarrassing condition.

That is why we applaud the UN for setting aside May 23 every year to draw the world’s attention to the debilitating Obstetric fistula is a medical condition effect of the disease and its consequences on women.

The Daily Graphic sees the theme for this year: “End Fistula now: invest in quality health care, empower communities," as apt because we do not only need massive education and sensitisation to the disease, we also need commitment on the part of the managers of health in the country to invest more towards eradicating it
entirely.

We are worried that the low public education is counter-productive because some women may be suffering from it and do not know what to do.

In some communities, such women are seen as having done something untoward for which reason the gods are punishing them, while others think such women are witches.

It is a fact that the role of women in the socio-economic and cultural development of a nation cannot be overemphasised.

It is therefore important that anything that inhibits our collective forward match must be tackled head-on to pave the way for national development.

Everyone counts