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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid