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29.06.2004 General News

Conference on prevention of Obstetric fistula opens

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Accra, June 29, GNA - Mr Moses Dani-Baah, Deputy Minister of Health, on Tuesday said the Health Ministry had been charged to conduct research into the causes of obstetric fistula, which is a pregnancy-related abnormality and come out with appropriate data that would enable the Government to source for funding for free medical treatment.

In addition to that a national policy would be formulated and enforced to support the campaign to end fistula, ensure free family planning and provide quality maternal health services that included emergency obstetric care.

Obstetric fistula, caused by prolonged and obstructed labour, results in an injury to the pelvic tissue leading to the rupture of the bladder and this results in uncontrollable dribbling of urine or faeces.

Mr Dani-Baah was addressing participants at the opening of a three-day consultative meeting to take stock of progress made since the launch of the global campaign in 2003 to end Fistula. It was also to share experiences and recommend practices and lessons.

Over 90 participants are attending the regional meeting, from countries including Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria.

Mr Dani-Baah said obstetric fistula, one of the most devastating pregnancy-related morbidity, affected primarily young women, who were poor and lacked the means to access quality and emergency medical care; left the affected to suffer dehumanising pain and neglect by husbands and society.

He said over two million women worldwide were living with the abnormality, which could be repaired but many had not sought for treatment because of ignorance and lack of self-esteem. He called for a radical approach to attract both positive attention and funding to further create awareness on the causes and prevention of fistula.

Mr Dani-Baah said poverty, childbirth, malnutrition during pregnancy and lack of emergency obstetric care were the causes of obstetric fistula.

Since fistula was an issue of right and equity, it had the potential to serve as an entry point for bettering women's reproductive health and rights.

He said the Government would ensure the provision of resources as part of its Poverty Reduction Strategy for the treatment of fistula and urged society to sympathise with the affected, instead of viewing them as outcasts.

Ms Fama Ba, Director, Africa Division, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), New York, informed participants that the global campaign to end fistula and raise awareness, was on course and that the UNFPA was currently providing support to over 20 countries mostly in the Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and some Arab states. "Additional needs assessment carried out in countries including Senegal, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Chad, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Mali and Zambia, the training of national doctors from many African countries by the Addis Ababa Fistula hospitals and the establishment of a working group are some of the important steps in the right direction," she said. She said the condition affected a minimum of two to three per 1,000 expectant women, meaning an annual incidence of 100,000 to 150,000 patients. Ms Ba noted that though the need to focus attention on surgery as the only option to repair the abnormality, the need to come out with effective mechanism to socially reintegrate cured-patients into their communities was paramount. She noted that failure to reintegrate cured patient into the society would defeat the very purpose because "fistula is not only a medical issue, but also a social problem with negative developmental impact". She called for the formation of broad-based and diverse partnership with local as well as international nongovernmental organisations and urged the meeting to come out with a common understanding of priorities, strategies and approaches to effectively tackle the problem in Africa. 29 June 04

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