BY VICTOR OKEKE, Abuja
The Cross River State Commissioner of Health, Dr Inyang Asibong has announced proposals in the 2018 state budget to fund its new fistula hospital in the state capital, Calabar as well the one in Ogoja.
The Calabar centre which was opened in 2016 brings to two, the number of fistula centres in the state as Engender Health Nigeria under its USAID-funded Fistula Care Plus (FC+) is already operating a centre housed within the premises of the Ogoja General Hospital, which is about six hours drive away from Calabar.
Asibong said there is now a provision in the Ministry of Health budget for fistula under the medical services. “We have this centre in Ogoja which being covered under the ministry’s budget and also have a provision for another one Calabar.”
Last month, the Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Barrister John Lebo vouched the assembly’s readiness to create an expenditure head for fistula care with a new draft policy in the 2018 budget.
Non-governmental organisations like EngenderHealth have being championing fistula treatments Nigeria with donor funds but such strategy, they say is not sustainable as donor funded programmes have a timeline, a reason for the f push for governments at the federal and state levels to take-over the funding for these treatments.
Fistula is caused mainly by prolong obstructed labour has no geographical boundary in Nigeria as it a pointer of the poor healthcare system in the country.
In areas where women have no health care nearby, vaginal fistulas are much more common. After days of pushing a baby that does not fit through the birth canal, very young mothers can have severe vaginal, bladder, or rectal damage, sometimes causing fistulas.
Iyeme Efem, Engender Health Nigeria Country Project Manager said the Ogoja Fistula Centre has clients from other states like Benue, Akwa Ibom, Enugu and so on.
“Sometimes we have people coming even from Cameroon and they are treated free. Fistula knows no boundaries. Wherever you find them, you pick them,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Cross River Health Commissioner who spoke in Ogoja through the Director of Public Health in the State Ministry of Health, Dr Iwara Iwara, said the wife of the governor, Dr Mrs Linda Ayade was aware of what is going on in Ogoja and appreciates the effort of Engender through the Fistula Care programme.
“I want to say that Cross River State government is quiet appreciative of what is taking place here because we have discovered that this fistula centre stands out far more than whatever we had thought about,” he said.
The commissioner assured that the government is very much interested in providing any other additional support that would be needed at any time to keep the Ogoja centre working.
This week pull effort which saw expert fistula surgeons from different hospitals in Nigeria converge in Ogoja involved a surgery on a little girl with congenital splenic agenesis- no anus to pass faeces.
“We also appreciate that what is been here is for humanity, imagine that little girl who has been out of normal life for nine-years, it is a thing that the state is interested in. We want to pass this message round, for those who have the same problem anywhere, they should be come out and avail themselves of the services offered here,” Dr Asibong said.
To support the Ogoja Centre, the wife of the governor donated food items to clinic to ensure a continuation of its free feeding programme and also made financial commitments towards supporting the patients.