Amref Health Africa in Kenya joined the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta in marking the World Fistula Day on May 23 at the Kenyatta University in Nairobi. The event also marked the official opening of the first International Conference on Reproductive Health.
“I want all mothers hiding behind the shame of fistula to be assisted in seeking help,” said the First Lady at the opening event of the conference. She noted that most women with fistula suffer in silence because of the stigma and shame.
Obstetric Fistula is a devastating and demeaning condition caused by prolonged obstructed labour. It leaves a woman with insufficient voluntary control over urination or passing of stool, causing immense suffering, indignity and disability. It is estimated that two million women worldwide are living with the condition.
“The discussions at this conference will help us to find solutions to ending fistula,” said Prof Margaret Keraka, the convenor of the conference, at the opening of the event.
Joyce Mutama, a fistula champion, lived with fistula for eight years, which she got at a young age while giving birth to her first child at home with the help of a midwife. She had successful surgery conducted by the Freedom from Fistula Foundation.
“The surgery gave me back my joy and dignity,” said Joyce. “I urge men to take their wives to hospital instead of abandoning them,” she added.
Gift Malunga, the acting country representative of the United Nations Population Fund, said ending fistula was a priority for the UNFPA. The Fund had helped 85,000 women with fistula since 2000, the majority of them in 2016, she said. She thanked the Government of Kenya for making maternity care free.
Prof John Okumu, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academia noted that most fistula cases are because of poverty, illiteracy and poor access to proper maternity care. “Half of pregnant women deliver without skilled attendance and only 51% attend post-natal care,” he said.
“If these issues are properly addressed, maternal disability and death could be reduced by 20%.”
During the event, the First Lady commissioned Amref Dignity Packs presented by Dr Elizabeth Wala, Manager of Amref Health Africa in Kenya’s Outreach Programme. Each pack consists of a five-litre water bottle, a cup, soap, petroleum jelly, two undergarments, a packet of adult diapers, a leso and a basin and will be given to women undergoing fistula repair surgery.
The Dignity Packs were later distributed by Mrs Africa Kenya Lucie Kamiti, who is Amref’s ambassador for fistula, to fistula patients at the Gatundu Level 4 Hospital.
Amref Health Africa has done over 20,000 fistula repair operations in East, Central and Southern Africa for the last 25 years through the Health System Strengthening programme.
Finally, the Principal Cabinet Secretary of health Mr Julius Korir urged all partners to work together and ensure access to healthcare and help restore dignity to all women.
Written by Lynnea Imbai