BY VICTOR OKEKE, Abuja
Engender Health Nigeria Country Project Manager for the USAID-funded Fistula Care Plus (FC+) project, Chief Iyeme Efem has disclosed that Nigeria currently has over 200,000 women living with fistula with 12,000 new cases occurring every year.
He decried government’s near-lack of commitment towards ending incidences of fistula, a condition he says still exist because of the poor healthcare system available in the country.
An obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and the rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labour, leaving a woman incontinent of urine or faeces or both.
“I cannot say that we are on track. We have a backlog of over 200,000 women living with fistula and we have new cases occurring every year of 12,000. And the total number of repairs EngenderHealth does is 2000,” Efe said.
According to him, EngenderHealth is the only organization that does fistula treat and repairs as a programme as other nongovernmental organisations and development partners do it on an ad hoc basis.
EngenderHealth is the only one that has sustained tempo through USAID to do this fistula work and if you add all the other ones are doing, we maybe have about 4,000 repairs annually.
This figure is not up to the number of new occurrence every year let alone attacking the backlog. It will be self-deception for one to say that Nigeria is on track towards ending fistula when the tap is still running and the bucket of water is overflowing and what one is using is a tea spoon to try to empty the bucket of water.
According to Efem, the logical remedy to this problem is to turn off the tap first and “when we turn off the tap and it stops running into the bucket, then even if we have a tea spoon, we can take millions of years if it is what it will take us to empty that. But at least we have done one thing, by turning off the tap.”
He said that even when a lot needs to be done Nigeria is not doing enough to address it. Meanwhile, EngenderHealth has introduced a strategy with the support of Nigerian Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole which is aimed at expanding the pool of number of centres that are conducting fistula repairs.
Adewole said the required medical skills are resident in the teaching hospitals and has signed a memo to all the teaching hospitals waiving the fees for fistula repairs.
EngenderHealth promises to support the new programmes by providing medical consumables. “For example there 49 teaching hospitals Nigeria, if each of them does 15 repairs every month, then we are looking at 735 repairs done in a month by all the teaching hospitals and that would add up to 8,830 repairs in one year.
Then if you add that 8830 repairs in a year plus the 2,000 Engender Health is doing, it will amount to 10,000 repairs, plus the additional 2000 development partners are doing; this will total over 12,000 repairs. This would mean that the 12,000 yearly new cases would have been tackled but still, the backlogs still remain untouched.