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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.