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Ghana calls for holistic approach to end Obstetric Fistula

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Ghana has called for a holistic approach to end Obstetric Fistula to make pregnancy and childbirth safe and comfortable for women across the world.

“It is unacceptable for women in the 21st century to undergo such humiliating ordeals. There is hope in sight – just report to the nearest hospital for treatment.

“It therefore behooves on all stakeholders to contribute effectively to ensure that women do not continue to suffer in their attempt to bless this world with another life, no woman should suffer such embarrassing and undignified circumstances of fistula,” Ms Otiko Afisah Djaba, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection stated in Accra.

Today, Ghana joins the global community to mark the 2017 United Nations’ International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, on the general theme: “Hope, Healing and Dignity for all”.

She therefore called on all stakeholders including; Development Partners, Practitioners, Civil Society Organisations, Religious and Traditional authorities and the general public to join forces to end Obstetric Fistula.

She said the Gender Ministry as per the mandate ascribed to it by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, would continue to work with these stakeholders to ensure that Obstetric Fistula was eliminated in Ghana.  

Ms Djaba said the Ministry would continue to partner organisations such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the ECOWAS Gender Development Centre to repair obstetric fistulas for women as well as intensify sensitisation of stakeholders on sexual reproductive health, Fistula and Child Marriage.

The Gender Minister emphasised that Obstetric fistula was preventable and in most cases treatable: “the treatment is through reconstructive surgery with a trained fistula surgeon to repair the injury”.

“Indeed in 2016, 155 cases of fistula were repaired at the Mercy Women Hospital in Mankesim with funding support from the ECOWAS Gender Development Centre.

“Success rates for surgery are as high as 90 per cent for cases that are not complex; however the marginalised women are not aware and can hardly afford the cost of the reconstructive surgery,” she said.

Ms Djaba lamented that even though curable; women living in poor countries do not have adequate funds as well as emergency obstetric care services to deal with complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

She therefore suggested an adoption of comprehensive strategies to deal with Obstetric Fistula, which must focus on access to emergency obstetric care, abolishing negative cultural practices, preventive educational and sensitisation programmes for the public and repair of existing fistula cases.

 “She also called on society to show love to Obstetric Fistula patients and not banish them, they should be assisted to access medical treatment and regain their economic independence,” Ms Djaba stated.

The Gender Minister also expressed concern about some traditional practices and beliefs including; Female Genital Mutilation, early and forced marriages and child birth, which contributed to the high incidence of obstetric fistula in the country.    

She said in Ghana, fistula was relatively a hidden problem, largely because it affected the most marginalised members of society: young, poor, illiterate and socially disadvantaged women especially in remote areas.

“These women are more vulnerable to develop obstetric fistula because of the lack of power to make decisions which affect their lives and well-being such as when to seek medical help in the absence of her husband when labour sets in”.

“Most often than not, someone else usually her husband or other male relatives decides for her; they are poor and have no control over the use of family resources to which they may have contributed immensely”.

“They are often forced into early marriage and start childbearing before they are fully developed for the task and are unable, to have access to existing health services due to physical, social economic and psychological reasons,” the Gender Minister explained

The Gender Minister however noted that one of the key challenges facing the fight for gender equity and equality has to do with stigmatisation, inadequate access of women and girls to quality health care delivery and the non-existence of adequate measures to secure and protect their rights.

May 23 was established by the UN General Assembly on March 5, 2003, to draw the world’s attention to one of the reproductive health challenges women face as they undertake their reproductive role of pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetric fistula is a severe medical condition in which a fistula (hole) develops either between the rectum and vagina (recto-vaginal fistula) or between the bladder and vagina (vesico-vaginal fistula) after complications resulting from childbirth.

It occurs when adequate medical care is not available for the woman during labour or due to other factors such as laceration, rape and other sexual trauma.

The commemoration of this day globally, is a call to action to identify fistula patients and provide care, support and treatment for them to live in dignity and hope. Obstetric Fistula is a treatable illness and nothing to be ashamed off.


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