Every time I go on an awareness campaign such as my recent visit to Sokoto, I’m reminded of the importance of revamping our healthcare system. I’ll never get tired of saying this – Fistula can be prevented!
We have a collective responsibility as a nation to continue the cause of eradicating fistula. Our girls and women don’t have to suffer like this. Let us ensure the health and dignity of the vulnerable people in our society by encouraging better health and lifestyle practices for all.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with about 180 million people. Despite the abundance of natural resources and cultural diversity, Nigeria’s health indicators are shockingly poor with high rates of maternal and infant mortality and a low life expectancy. Although Nigeria constitutes only 2% of the world’s population, it accounts for 10% of the world’s maternal mortality rate in childbirth.
Obstetric fistula is a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum, or both, caused by prolonged labour without prompt medical intervention, such as a Caesarean section. Affected women suffer chronic incontinence, which can result in stigma and social isolation.
An estimated 2 million women in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab region, Latin America and the Caribbean live with obstetric fistula. And yet, the health condition is practically unheard-of in the United States and other Western nations because a fistula is largely preventable with access to timely obstetric care.
I think its time to address this urgently. Policymakers must increase access to fistula treatment and promote interventions that can prevent fistula from occurring – routine antenatal care and delivery under the care of a skilled birth attendant such as a doctor, nurse or midwife. Traditional rulers and officials must also work to prevent early marriage. When a girl’s pelvis is not fully mature, it makes it more likely she will experience obstructed labor during childbirth and develop a fistula.
I hope someone is informed and inspired to take action today. Let us protect our girls and women!