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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More