By Taddeo Bwambale
About 2,000 new cases of fistula are registered in Uganda annually, statistics from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reveal.
Over 300 fistula surgeons, gynaecologists, urologists and other health experts from all over the world are meeting in Kampala to review progress in fighting the dehumanising condition.
Fistula is a hole in the birth canal and rectum arising majorly from prolonged labour. Women with fistula are unable to control urine or stool, leading to other health complications.
According to the World Health Organisation, more than two million young women live with untreated obstetric fistula in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
It is estimated that between 140,000 and 200,000 Ugandan women in the reproductive age group (14-49 years) have a fistula. It is estimated that one out of 50 women has had fistula.
Only 1,500 fistula repairs are conducted every year, indicating that it would take at least 80 years to treat all the cases at the current rate.
Obstetric fistula can be avoided by delaying the age of first pregnancy and timely access to skilled health care for expectant women in labour.
At a meeting of the International Obstetric Fistula Working Group, a UNFPA-led global Campaign to End Fistula that opened on Monday, experts asked countries to do more to tame the condition.
Dr Luc de Bernis, the UNFPA senior advisor on maternal health described the high presence of fistula among women as a violation of their human rights.
“The presence of fistula is an extreme violation and denial of women’s rights. It is a gender issue that is unacceptable,” he stated.
Experts at the two- today meeting will review progress over the last ten years of the campaign rolled out in 50 countries globally, including Uganda.
The meeting will be followed by the 5th conference of the International Society of Obstetric Fistula Surgeons starting Wednesday under the theme: "End Fistula-A shared responsibility.”
The conference will discuss new findings and share experience from countries on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research aspects of managing the condition.
Delegates at the conference are from Uganda, Mozambique, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Liberia, UK, Netherlands, US, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Pakistan, Niger, Norway, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Yemen.
The experts will conduct surgical camps on the management of fistula at Mulago, Nakasero and Case Hospitals on Friday from 8:00am to 1:00pm.
Uganda registers over 2,000 new fistula cases annually