End Fistula within a Generation

World Fistula day colorfully celebrated with theme: “End Fistula within a generation” at University of Gondar referral Hospital hall on May 23/2016. The event calls every concerned bodies’ attention to combat and End Obstetric Fistula by 2020.
The Federal Ministry of Health representative, coordinator of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a representative of the regional Health Bureau, a Head of the Department of Health and Various invited guests attended world fistula day celebration.

In his opening speech on the event, Dr. Sisay Yifru, Dean of University of Gondar Medicine and Health Science College, said delivering best community service has been the mission of the college since its establishment. Dr. Sisay also noted that: “We have been working by providing quality maternal health services by tackling new cases of Obstetric fistula. We are also providing quality surgical and rehabilitative services to the fistula patients by constructing a standard and comprehensive fistula center in collaborative with our partners.”
Moreover, he recalled to the audiences that an estimated two million women living with obstetric fistula in the world. However, over one million of them are living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, and over 6000 new fistula cases registered per year in these two regions of the world. This shows that even though fistula is an international problem, those low and middle income countries are much more affected. He said obstetric Fistula is happened when labor is difficult and prolonged due to different reasons in a place where there is no modern obstetric intervention.

Dr. Sisay added the affected women are unable to control urine and/or faces leakage. This makes their life difficult: unhygienic and foul smelling, get divorced, depressed, isolated, and stigmatized by the community, even by their close relatives and their partners. In addition they will be unproductive and economically dependent.
Ms. Dorothy Lazaro, International Midwifery Specialist, The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) explained “Obstetric Fistula is almost exclusively a condition of the poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalized women and girls. It afflicts those who lack access to timely, high-quality, and life-saving maternal health care that so desperately need and deserve, and that is their human right.”

The global campaign to End Fistula, launched in 2003 by UNFPA and partners, according to Ms. Dorothy Lazaro, has made significant progress towards eliminating, fistula and supporting its survivors through prevention, treatment, social reintegration and advocacy.

Mr. Azmrawu Adigo, University of Gondar Fistula center coordinator, in his report presented to the participants of the occasion that though the center mainly serves for 23 districts of North Gondar Zone, it also serves to neighboring zones like South Gondar, West and East Gojjam, Awizone, North Wollo, Waghimra zone of Amhara region and some districts of Tigray and Benishandul Gumuz region. Hence, the patients often travel great distances to get here from these regions. Though UNFPA and IFHP covered transport cost, perdiem for fistula patients and their attendants, still there is shortage of vehicles.

Mr. Azmrawu reported the great works and contributions of Women and Health Alliance (WAHA) international, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Integrated Family Program (IFHP) and save the children.
Mr. Azmrawu also said over 916 women with obstetric fistula and other pelvic organ disorders were treated at the center so far.
Audiences raised such possible solutions to end obstetric fistula by 2020 as: to train all Health Extension Workers (HEWs) and Health development Army (HDA), offer continuous in service training for midwives and nurses to strengthen competencies and skills in management of obstructed labor, and provide adequate skilled human resource, supplies and equipment, support restoration of psycho social status of those women who have been treated for obstetric fistula, create economic independence opportunities for those women treated for obstetric fistula, based on need. Raise community awareness about obstetric fistula, its causes and mobilize communities for prevention, identification and rehabilitation of women treated for fistula are among the suggested solutions.
Two women from Benishandul Gumuz region shared their experiences associated with their being victimized with obstetric fistula and the obstacles they faced.
Finally, the festival has been concluded with a demonstration commemorating the day along the various streets of Gondar by hanging the motto of the day and walking in such corners of the city as Piazza and meskel square.
Reported by: Yilak Alebachew
Public and International Relations Senior Reporter, University of Gondar.

Edited by: Elias Menbere
International Relations Team Leader, University of Gondar.