End of shame: Fistula is curable
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THE government plans to improve 100 health facilities to enable women sufhealth facilities to enable women sufhealth facilities to enable women suffering from Obstetric Fistula undergo surgical repair, a swift response to a new revelation that only 50 per cent of 3,000 new fistula cases are being handled.

The Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Ms Ummy Mwalimu said yesterday that the state was all out to ensure it raises awareness to women that “the disease is treatable.”

“Of about 3,000 women who develop fistula, only 1,500 victims receive medication. “The government will use the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula to raise awareness among women that the disease can be treated,” she said yesterday ahead of International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, whose observance is slated for today.

Speaking on the same, Dr Hashina Begum, the Representative of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) noted in Dar es Salaam that it was vital to raise awareness on the disease.

“Many women and girls who suffer from fistula are excluded from daily community life and often abandoned by their husbands and families,” said the UNFPA envoy.

Dr Begum added that isolating them socially and emotionally makes it difficult for them to maintain a source of income or support -- thus deepening their poverty and magnifying their suffering.

She said UNFPA and the UN system within the country had in this year procured 67 ambulances to help referral systems and eight coordination vehicles, pointing out both ambulances and coordination vehicles had since been handed over to the health ministry.

“We’ve increased access to availability of family services to all women and men including young people, who wish to delay and reduce the number of pregnancies at an early age which is another factor leading to developing fistula,” she observed.

“This condition affects those who lack access to timely, high-quality, and life-saving maternal health care they need and deserve.... So more awareness, funds to cater for their treatment is needed to help women and girls who suffer from fistula,” said Dr Begum.

Dr Begum acknowledged the participation of partners including AMREF, CCBRT, MOHDGEC and the Tanzania Midwives Association (TAMA) for their collaboration to end obstetric fistula in the country.

The Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT) Programme Manager, Mr Clement George, said CCBRT had for the past five years provided lifechanging surgery to over 4,000 women living with fistula, saying there were still 15,000 women still living with fistula.

“The youngest fistula patient to undergo surgery in CCBRT was aged 12 while the oldest was aged 82… and she had lived with fistula for 66 years,” he observed.

Nineteen year old Sikujua Mabula from Kagera region who is currently receiving treatment at Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT) pointed out that she was impregnated at the age of 17 and therefore had to get married.

“A few months after the marriage, my husband told me to return home because life was getting tough, promising to come for me when things are better I used to attend clinic and the doctors said the baby was big and I could only give birth through caesarean, a few months before my due date, my mother in law told me to return home,” noted Mabula.

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