News / Health

Many African Females at Risk of Obstetric Fistula

Medical personnel in French-speaking Central African countries say obstetric fistula haunts 40 percent of women.  It is a severe condition where women cannot control urine flow due to physical tears caused by early marriages and births. Many women are abandoned and ostracized but doctors are helping some of the women with free surgeries.   

Eyenga Catherine weeps in pain while being treated for uncontrolled urine flow at the university teaching hospital in Yaounde. The 19-year-old tells VOA her trouble started two years ago when she was pregnant.

She says her doctor committed a diagnostic error and inflicted wounds oh her while operating on her for what he said were early signs of cancer of the uterus.

40 percent of African girls at risk

Doctors confer before they begin surgery, Yaounde, Cameroon, June, 2014. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)Doctors confer before they begin surgery, Yaounde, Cameroon, June, 2014. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)
x
Doctors confer before they begin surgery, Yaounde, Cameroon, June, 2014. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)
Doctors confer before they begin surgery, Yaounde, Cameroon, June, 2014. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)

Doctor Pierre Marie Tebeu, an expert in obstetric fistula says Catherine is one of the 40 percent of African girls who are given out in marriage at tender ages when their bodies are too physically immature to give birth.

He says all women who deliver are exposed to obstetric fistula even though it is first of all a major problem in adolescents who deliver when they are very young,  less than 20 years of age.

Dr. Tebeu adds that many of the patients die because there are very few qualified medical staff in Africa to handle fistula cases.

He says not any doctor can operate on obstetric fistula victims just because he is a gynaecologist or urologist. He explains that 75 percent of patients he receives have been unsuccessfully operated on by unqualified doctors.

Stigma associated to condition

Dr. Tebeu prepares his instruments for the operation, Yaounde, Cameroon, June, 2014. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)Dr. Tebeu prepares his instruments for the operation, Yaounde, Cameroon, June, 2014. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)
x
Dr. Tebeu prepares his instruments for the operation, Yaounde, Cameroon, June, 2014. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)
Dr. Tebeu prepares his instruments for the operation, Yaounde, Cameroon, June, 2014. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)

Nurse Abachong Esther says fistula causes a huge stigma around the condition and patients are accused of witchcraft practices and abandoned by their relatives.

She says many women go into hiding when they have the disease because they believe it is a curse and she adds there are even some medical workers who tell patients that there are no doctors in Cameroon who can help and as such they should go and wait for death at home.

New hope

A group of 300 women who have been successfully operated on for fistula have created an association to encourage patients to come out from the cloud of stigma and be treated.

Its leader, Oteng Julienne, tells VOA why the association was created.

She says the goal of the association is to tell patients to come out of from hiding because we also suffered from the same disease and were cured.  She says If we in the association had gone into hiding,  we may have died.  As victims, we go out and tell sufferers that we too were victims and have been treated so there is hope for them she says.

Medical workers say most if not all deaths as a result of fistula are preventable if  quality health care is provided and child marriages stopped. Those afflicted by it often smell,  and are sequestered away from their communities and families to suffer in silence.

 

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid