Nigeria advocates stronger awareness towards fistula elimination

Nigerian Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole

The Nigerian Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, has called for stronger awareness towards the elimination of Obstetric Fistula in Nigeria.

He said that it would reduce the rate of maternal mortality.

The Minister made this known at the High-Level Awareness Seminar on Fistula, held in Abuja.

According to him, ‘’Obstetric Fistula is a devastating Childbirth injury which leads to both physical and social harm for women. Women who experience obstetric fistula suffer constant incontinence, shame, social segregation and health problems.”

The development of obstetric fistula is directly linked to one of the major causes of maternal mortality: obstructed labor.

“It is estimated that more than 2 million young women live with untreated obstetric fistula in Asia and Sub- Saharan Africa,’’ he added.

Prof. Adewole noted that ‘’ in Nigeria, the most common cause of Obstetric Fistula is prolonged obstructed labor due to limited access to emergency obstetric care. Unfortunately, only 38% of deliveries in Nigeria are supervised by Social Birth Attendances (SBAs). Socio-cultural practices including early marriage and early childbirth before the pelvis are fully developed also contribute significantly.”

He further said that in a 2017 report by UNICEF, 43% of Nigerian girls are married off before their 18thbirthday, while 17% are married before they turn 15.

The North Eastern and North Western Geo-Political Zones have the highest number of cases.

He emphasized that ‘’an estimated 150,000 women and girls are living with untreated fistula in Nigeria, with an annual incidence of 12,000 -15, 000 cases, approximately, the country contributes 15% to the global burden of the obstetric fistula’’.

He pointed out that it is estimated that the unmet need for the treatment of OFs could be as high as 98% in Nigeria, with less than 3,000 fistula repairs done annually (NSF2018).

It is also estimated that about 2,000 fistula repairs annually (NSF 2018- 2022) and 10,000 clients are added annually to subsequent years new cases’’, he added.

To this end, the Minister said that FG and Development Partners were making concerted efforts to eliminate fistula and investing in the capacity building of various cadres of Healthcare Workers.

He stressed that the FMOH has developed National Training Guidelines in conjunction with National Group on Obstetric Fistula, development partners, line ministries and other key relevant Stakeholders.

The Minister informed that the ministry would establish four more National Centres and one regional center, in addition to the three National Centres

“This will increase our national obstetric centers to eight including regional center,’’ he said.

He urged partners to join the fight against the scourge of fistula in our society, adding that FG would continue to play a leading role in setting the agenda.

In her welcome address, the Director, Family Health Department, Dr. Adebimpe Adebiyi, said that the FMOH was committed towards the elimination of Obstetric Fistula and improve the lives of women and children in Nigeria

In his remarks, the UNFPA, Acting Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Eugene Kongnyuy, said that there was a need to create more awareness on OFs in Nigeria.

He further said that focus should be on improving Girl- Child Education, Child spacing, Gender trust and people showing more compassion.

– Bilkisu Pai I VON