More women’s lives changed through fistula repair surgery

29 June 2018

Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, 30 June, 2018 - More than 500 women from Zimbabwe are currently on the waiting list to undergo fistula repair surgery while a total of 397 women have benefited from the surgeries during fistula repair camps conducted at Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital, the current centre of excellence for fistula repair surgeries since 2015.

“The number of women registering for the surgery is increasing and we are glad that the surgeries that are being conducted here are changing women’s social lives for the better,” said Dr. Collet Mawire, Medical Superintendent at Chinhoyi Hospital who says the hospital has witnessed an increase in the number of women who are registering for fistula repair surgery.

“We currently have a waiting list of over 500 women for fistula repair surgeries, we provide the service free of charge because most often, women with obstetric fistula cannot afford the $400 that is required for the surgery.”

Obstetric fistula is one of the most serious and tragic injuries that occur during child birth. It is a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum. It is caused by prolonged or obstructed labour without timely access to emergency obstetric care, notably a Caesarian section. It leaves women leaking urine, faeces or both and over time, it leads to chronic medical problems.

UNFPA, which, locally, has been leading the Campaign to End Fistula says it remains committed to supporting the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) to ensure the accessibility of fistula repair facilities to women whose lives have been negatively affected by fistula. 

“Since the programme began in 2015 we are very happy that we have managed to restore the dignity of at least 397 women who are now living normal lives today,” said Dr Esther Muia, UNFPA Country Representative. “More, however still needs to be done to ensure that these facilities are easily accessible to women suffering from this condition regardless of their location.”

Dr. Muia said while corrective surgery is important the key to addressing the problem of obstetric fistula is preventing its occurrence.

“We must ensure that every woman delivers in a health facility where they can access appropriate care and emergency obstetric care in the event that complications arise during delivery. Additionally, providing Family Planning to those who want, could reduce the number of women dying or being injured during child birth by at least 20 per cent.”

UNFPA also discouraged child marriages as preventive measure as young girls often get fistula injuries during child birth as their bodies would not have matured for child birth.

In 2015 UNFPA supported Ministry of Health and Child Care on a learning mission to Ethiopia resulting in the launch of the Obstetric Fistula programme. To date 58 health personnel that include nurses and doctors, have been trained in the pre and post- operative management of Obstetric Fistula through a mentorship programme with Women and Health Alliance International (WAHA) and MOHCC. The UNFPA Zimbabwe, Campaign to End Fistula is implemented under the Health Development Fund with support from the Governments of Britain, Ireland, Sweden and the European Union.

By Jesilyn Dendere