Over 75,000 women suffering from obstetric fistula

More than 75,000 women are suffering from obstetric fistula in Mozambique according to Dr Igor Vaz, a surgeon at Maputo Central Hospital.

Speaking during an international meeting on the subject taking place in the capital, Maputo, Vaz pointed out that this number is an estimate as there are no accurate statistics kept on the extent of the problem. Indeed, many women do not even know that their suffering is caused by a treatable fistula.

An obstetric fistula is a severe medical condition in which a hole develops between the vagina and either the rectum or bladder as a result of childbirth.

According to Vaz, “in Mozambique, for every 100,000 births, three or four women have this condition”.

He stated that main causes of a fistula are prolonged labour, a lack of pre-natal care, and deliveries outside of the healthcare network.

In Mozambique, it is estimated that close to 40 per cent of births take place outside of hospital and without pre-natal care. Births are often attended by community midwives who generally lack the knowledge and equipment to deal with various types of labour complications.

The surgeon regretted the insufficient coverage of the healthcare network and the lack of trained health workers, along with harmful attitudes in maternity care.

These factors are worse in rural areas where women often have to travel long distances to access health units.

As a result, there are cases where women attempt to give birth at home without medical assistance, and only arrive at a health centre days after going into labour. The pressure of the baby’s head on the mother’s pelvic bone can cut off blood supply to the area, causing tissue damage which results in obstetric fistula.

The fistula can result in incontinence, and in many cases women suffer discrimination and shame.

However, Vaz pointed out that 95 per cent of cases can be treated successfully, a fact that many women do not know. In response, the Ministry of Health is launching an information campaign using non-governmental organisations, community leaders and radio broadcasts.

The two-day meeting brings together representatives from 49 countries to outline strategies and programmes for the prevention of obstetric fistula, and to discuss treatments.

Post published in: Africa News

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