News / Africa

UN Aims to Help Fistula Patients in Malawi

Malawian women at a UNFPA funded fistula camp, Zomba Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi (Lameck Masina for VOA).
Malawian women at a UNFPA funded fistula camp, Zomba Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi (Lameck Masina for VOA).
Lameck Masina
Malawi and the United Nations are stepping up efforts to prevent obstetric fistula cases and to help more women already suffering with the condition.
 
Considered a condition born of poverty, obstetric fistula can occur in women during prolonged and difficult child birth or from sexual abuse. It stems from soft tissue tears, leaving women with urinary or fecal incontinence, in pain, prone to chronic infections and often isolated and abandoned by husbands, family and community.
 
The younger the woman is when she first gives birth, the greater her risk of fistula.
 
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is teaming up with the Malawi Ministry of Health to make medical care more accessible to women and to educate the public on the condition in order to prevent or treat it.
 
Gift Malunga, acting country director for the UNFPA in Malawi, says the group is conducting “fistula camps” twice a year in public hospitals where those afflicted by the condition can be treated, and they are conducting an outreach campaign to educate the public.
 
“We started with very few patients, because of the myths surrounding the area," said Malunga. "Some were saying that it is a curse, not a medical condition. But when we engaged the media to create awareness in the communities, we saw more and more patients coming to our camps to the extent that, last time, we could not treat all of them in the camp.”
 
Malunga says women leave the camp physically healed, and are given food items, soaps, a piece of cloth and counseling for easier re-integration into communities that shun them. She says so far the UNFPA program has helped more than 600 women with corrective surgeries.
 
The World Health Organization estimates some 2 to 3 million women and girls live with obstetrical fistula in developing countries, with 50,000 new fistula cases occurring each year.
 
In specific regions of Malawi, Malunga says, the prevalence of early marriage is one of fistula's major contributing factors.
 
“For example, in Mangochi [district], I think it’s more to do with early marriage because when someone is not fully matured and they have prolonged labor, it’s very easy for the tissues to die and then perforation takes place.”
 
Some communities are assisting U.N. and government efforts.
 
Chief Kwataine, a senior traditional leader who has acted as National Chairperson for Malawi's Presidential Initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood, has pushed for and passed bylaws to help prevent young women from being at risk for fistula.
 
“As traditional leaders, we have now ganged up to set some bylaws to ban traditional birth attendants from conducting deliveries in villages to prevent the fistula issue," she said. "The second one is to set stiffer penalties to bar parents from encouraging young girls to get married. We have set up 21 as age limit to make sure that every young girl or young boy should attain 21 before thinking of getting married.”
 
Kwataine says the penalties for breaking the bylaws include payment of chickens and goats to traditional leaders.
 
But despite these efforts to treat the afflicted, challenges remain, such as an acute shortage of trained and dedicated medical doctors to repair fistula's damage to the body. Malawi's Ministry of Health says of the 12 or so local doctors trained to handle repairs, only a few do the procedure.  
 
According to Malunga, that means U.N.-funded fistula camps must rely on foreign doctors.
 
“We have always had this issue of sustainability," she said. "We are saying to ourselves as UNFPA ‘to what extent do we continue to bring in [medical] consultancy’? That’s why all the time the consultants are here — they are training clinicians how to repair, but now the challenge is on the dedication of the clinicians and doctors we have trained. That one now is beyond us as UNFPA.”
 
UNFPA is scheduled to conduct its second three-week fistula camp in early October at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre. About 100 women are expected to receive fistula repair.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid