Thirty-five maternal deaths were recorded in the Upper East Region in 2005 as a result of pregnancy-related complications, Dr Abdul-Razak Dokurugu, Reproductive Health Management Specialist at Bolgatanga has said.
He said one of the commonest of such complications was fistula, which "in simple terms is a tear between the vagina and the rectum during childbirth, resulting in continuous leakage of urine, faces or both".
Dr Dokurugu announced this at a one-day sensitisation forum on the theme: "Strengthening Fistula Prevention Activities and Access to Treatment in Ghana."
He attributed the cause of fistula to prolonged labour among women especially in the rural areas, saying, "under normal circumstances a pregnant woman is supposed to go through a labour period of 15 hours during which a child should be delivered."
If it extended for more than 15 hours it could lead to the development of fistula if the woman was not rushed to hospital in time, he pointed out.
Dr Dokurugu described fistula as "a big social issue" since it created a serious problem for the victim and called on family heads to encourage pregnant women in their families to attend health facilities for anti-natal care in time and regularly, pointing out that the signs could easily be detected at such facilities.
Mrs Salamatu Futa, Programme Coordinator of Fistula Prevention and Access to Treatment in Ghana, announced that more than two million women were living with fistula in developing countries and indicated that about 50,000 to 100,000 new cases occurred everyday world wide.
She said according to the needs assessment report on fistula conducted in 2003, the exact prevalence in Ghana was not known. "An estimate conducted by Danso et al in 1996 in Kumasi showed that 150 out of 157,449 deliveries resulted in fistula due to complications". The study, Mrs Futa noted, showed that 400,000 to 500,000 women worldwide were affected by fistula each year, indicating that Ghana had an average of about 500 cases of women with fistula. Mrs Futa explained that her outfit with the support of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) had targeted 30 countries in Africa and Asia, Ghana being one.
She said Pathfinders International; a charitable organisation was engaged in the treatment of persons affected by the disease free of charge in collaboration with the UNFPA. Mrs Futa pointed out that the project was the first of its kind to be established in the three Northern regions.