Most fistulas are as a result of difficult childbirth and obstructed labour lasting more than 24 hours.
HEALTH | FISTULA
The Ministry of health has availed free treatment for Obstetric Fistula (OF) across all regional referral hospitals and mission hospitals in the country.
The mission hospitals earmarked to offer the free treatment are Lacor, Kagando, Kitovu, Kamuli, Kisiizi, Kumi and Virika. The treatment will be undertaken by 23 fistula surgeons with the capacity to carry out both simple and complex repairs.
According the Vivian Nakaliika Serwanjja, the Ministry's communications officer, the necessary fistula repair equipment has also been procured while health workers such as anaesthetists and nurses have been trained in management of fistula in each of the referral hospitals.
Fistula is as an abnormal opening between the birth canal and the bladder/ureter or rectum of a woman that results in constant leakage of urine and/or faeces through the birth canal.
Most fistulas are as a result of difficult childbirth and obstructed labour lasting more than 24 hours. The pressure of the baby's head or any presenting part of the baby can injure the tissue in the birth canal creating a hole between the birth canal and bladder or rectum, causing continuous and uncontrollable leakage of urine or faeces or both.
Globally, approximately 2 million women are living with fistula, with 50,000-100,000 new cases occurring annually, most of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
In Uganda, fistula still remains a major public health problem. At least 140,000-200,000 (2% of women of reproductive age) women suffer from it and 1,900 new cases per year.
"Although, 2,000 repairs are carried out every year, a good proportion of women affected by it are not receiving the required fistula treatment hence leaving a massive backlog in the communities," reads part of the press statement from the Ministry.
National Celebrations for the International Day to end Fistula was held on Friday June 23, at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, in Mbarara District, to raise awareness, create visibility of the medical condition and intensify actions towards ending it in Uganda and the world over.
The celebrations were held under the theme ‘Hope, Healing and Dignity for All' with an emphasis on the role of stakeholders and the public in the fight against fistula to reduce new cases, provide treatment to those with it and reintegrate those who have undergone repair back to the community.
While officiating at the ceremony, the Minister of State for Health, Sarah Opendi emphasized the need for all mothers to deliver under the care of a professional skilled attendant.
"Any woman could be at risk of fistula during delivery if she is not assisted by a skilled health worker who can recognise complications quickly and take action. However, women who give birth before age 20 are at greatest risk of fistula." she said.
Opendi noted that poor nutrition during a girl's childhood can also cause stunted growth and increase her risk for fistula.
Several government interventions have been put in place to address the problem, some of which include a multifaceted fistula management program aimed at prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of fistula clients and providing more skilled health personnel to perform fistula repairs and reintegrated those who have undergone repairs back into their communities.
Nakaliika noted that these interventions are made possible with support from Health Development Partners and Implementing Partners, Civil Society Organizations, and the private sector, who push forward the Ministry of Health mandate to see a Uganda, where actions are intensified towards ending fistula.
These partners are UNFPA, USAID/Engender Health/fistula care Plus Project, AMREF, Terrewode, Women at Work International, Medical Teams International, World Vision and Uganda Village Project.