Obstetric Fistula : UNFPA and stakeholders multiply efforts to end disease

The International Day to end Obstetric Fistula has been observed in Cameroon amidst increased efforts from stakeholders to prevent and end the devastating health problem.

The theme for this year’s International Day to End Obstetric Fistula on May 23 was, “20 years on – progress but not enough! Act now to end fistula by 2030!”

According to information from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), “Obstetric Fistula happens when the baby becomes stuck inside a woman’s body during childbirth. This results in a devastating injury – a hole forms between the birth canal and bladder and /or resulting in uncontrollable leaking of urine and faeces.”

Health experts in Cameroon say data on the prevalence of Obstetric Fistula is not very accurate, but a report by the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services (CBCHS) puts annual figures of women who suffer from the health problem at between 350 to 1500.

The women are said to be found in the three Northern regions and other endemic regions in the North West and West regions of Cameroon.

Risk Factors

The World Health Organization (WHO) says obstructed labour is the most common cause of Obstetric Fistula. WHO adds that “obstructed labour accounts for up to 6% of all maternal deaths.”

Health experts have also identified lack of obstetric care, poverty, lack of education and early childbirth as some risk factors.

Dr. Destin Ntambo Mbuh, a Gynecologist working with the CBCHS explains why the prevalence of Obstetric Fistula is higher in the Northern regions.

Dr. Destin Ntambo Mbuh is a gynecologist working with the CBCHS. 

“Women who have babies at home deal mostly with traditional birth attendants who will not readily diagnose abnormal labour which could be in terms of duration, presentation of the baby or the pelvis of the woman could be bad. So the attendants would let the woman labour for a long time. Sometimes the baby’s head is stuck and crushing in the bladder. This leaves a hole on the bladder, resulting in Obstetric Fistula.”

End Obstetric Fistula!

The UNFPA has come up with a project to end Obstetric Fistula by 2030.In collaboration with some health structures, UNFPA has been organizing free surgical campaigns to treat women suffering from the “shameful disease.”

One of such initiatives was set up in collaboration with by the CBCHS and Hope and Healing International (HHI), Canada.

In February 2022, the CBCHS also came up with a project to identify and provide appropriate health care to women with Obstetric Fistula. The project was named the Socio Economic Empowerment of Females with Fistula (SEEFF) Project.

Seven months later, the Cameroonian Association of Urologists joined the fight against the health problem . The association organized a free surgical campaign for people suffering from prostate problems and Obstetric Fistula. Over 15 patients benefitted from free corrective surgeries during the campaign.

To cut down on the number of women who present with the disease in the Northern regions, the government has also set up a health voucher  to facilitate healthcare to women.

“The state is doing a lot to end the disease in the Northern regions. The global health voucher put together  by government covers prenatal services right up to delivery. It also addresses  risk factors and gives access to antenatal delivery conditions where good decisions can be made and women benefit from surgery if they need one, Dr. Destin told Crtv Web.

The gynecologist however insists that efforts to ending this devastating birth injury should start in communities.

“Some issues can be addressed better in communities. If these girls go to school and not marry as early as 8 or 9 years, it will be a critical solution in moving away from Obstetric Fistula.” the Gynecologist says.


Kathy Neba Sina

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