Written By:KNA , Posted: Thu, Jul 15, 2010
Over 1000 cases of Fistulae, a condition characterized by urine leakage in women as a result of inadequate health services and failed government policies to address reproductive health are reported every year in Kenya.
The 82-page report, “‘I Am Not Dead, But I Am Not Living’: Barriers to Fistula Prevention and Treatment in Kenya,” describes the devastating condition facing women with fistula in Kenya and the wide gap between government’s policies to address reproductive health and the reality of women’s daily lives.
Speaking at the launch of AMREF Project Manager, Dr. Khisa Wakasiaka, said that approximately 3000 women and girls develop fistula every year.
‘The number of those living with untreated fistula is estimated between 30,000 and 30,000cases,” he added.
He urged the government to develop and implement a national strategy to prevent and provide needed services to those suffering from fistula and to improve access to fistula surgery by subsidizing routine repairs in hospitals.
Dr. Khisa noted that lack of supplies and equipment in the hospitals as well as training services of doctors and nurses at the district and dispensary level was one of the main challenges facing Fistula treatment.
Lack of awareness was also a major challenge and the government should look into ways of reaching the public especially those from the rural areas who are mostly affected and unable to access the treatment easily, he said.
Speaking at the same function, the Africa women’s rights researcher, Agnes Odhiambo said that many women and girls with fistula endure lives of shame, misery, violence and poverty thus preventing fistula and restoring women’s health and dignity requires more than good policies on paper.
She said that fistula survivors endure social and psychological torment that is unlikely to end with surgery thus lack of fistula awareness in communities and unsuccessful repairs can be traumatizing for women.
“Early marriages, female genital mutilation (FGM) are some of the major causes of fistula,” she added.
“Poor, rural, and illiterate women and girls are often the ones who develop obstetric fistula or die during pregnancy and childbirth,” Odhiambo said. “Important information and services are not reaching them, and this shows that government policies that promise health care equality are not being carried out.”
The report says that the risk of obstetric fistula often begins when young girls get pregnant or marry early, before their bodies are safely able to sustain a pregnancy.
This can result in obstructed labour, and if emergency care, often a Caesarean section is not accessible, the long labour results in destruction of vaginal tissue and causes a hole – a fistula – and incontinence.
One of the factors leading to early pregnancy and childbearing is the lack of accurate information about sexuality.
Human Rights Watch interviewed many girls with virtually no knowledge about reproductive processes or health.
Sylvia Singi, a survivor of Fistula, said that she had lived with Fistula for 8 years before getting treatment and since the diagnosis in 2002 she lost two babies due to the negligence of doctors.
“I was frustrated and stigmatized and even thought of committing suicide just because of the disease that was making me uncomfortable and embarrassed,” Singi said.
She, however, added that since her treatment last August, she is happy and has decided to campaign and create awareness among women who might be suffering in silence and yet they can be able to access treatment.
Rose Opiyo, a 60 year old woman, narrated how she has suffered with the disease for over 17 years after giving birth to three children.
Opiyo said that she came to learn that she had fistula after delivering twins way back in 1977 but access to proper treatment was difficult.
“I was in and out of hospital for many years trying to get a Doctor to help me but all in vain,” She said adding that she almost lost her life due to inflation of the uterus.
Opiyo added that after visiting over 3 hospitals, one of them operated on her but left her wound worse than it was making her situation worse.
She said that thanks to AMREF Doctors last month she was able to receive treatment.
Fistula: Kenyan women suffering despite cure
Written By:KNA , Posted: Thu, Jul 15, 2010