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Surgery Helps Pregnant Nigerian Women With Fistula

The United Nations Population Fund is sponsoring a project in Nigeria to help child-bearing women suffering from Obstetric Fistula, a preventable condition that’s easily treated. Nigeria has one of the highest prevalence rates in Africa.

The two-week project there brings volunteer doctors from Britain and the United States to team up with Nigerian surgeons to treat hundreds of women suffering from the problem. English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard interviewed Kristin Hetle, head of media for the UN Population Fund.

She says it is a childbirth injury, caused by obstructed labor not surgically treated right away. A woman with this condition cannot control her bladder function, meaning urine and sometimes feces are uncontrollably discharged. Many women are stigmatized, adding to their despair.

The situation is remedied by immediate proper maternal health care. This two-week program is targeting Nigeria, but will be expanded to cover 36 sub-Saharan African countries as well as Asian and Arab countries. The doctors surgically repair hundreds of fistulas and train medical personnel and social workers in the “relatively simple procedure.”

Ms. Hetle says fistula is a very treatable condition, with a success rate as high as 90 percent for uncomplicated cases, which means a woman “can get her life back.” The program also hopes to raise fistula awareness and encourage women to seek help at their nearest health care facility.