Dr Gabriel Yao Kumah Ganyaglo

Ghana, today joined the rest of the world to mark the ‘International Day to End Obstetric Fistula’ with a call for a national dialogue on the ailment.

Dr Gabriel Yao-Kumah Ganyaglo, an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and a Fistula Repairer, said it was unfortunate that Obstetric Fistula, which could be eliminated if all hands were on deck, was not being given the needed attention.

Speaking to the Ghana News Agency in Accra, to mark the day in Ghana, Dr Ganyaglo said it was unfortunate that budget was not allocated to run activities in the quest to create awareness about Obstetric Fistula and called on the Ghana Health Service, Ministries of Finance, Gender Children and Social Protection, Chieftancy and Religious Affairs and Local Government and Rural Development to come together to help to address the condition in Ghana.

He called on the country and for that matter communities, to own the programme to eliminate obstetric fistula, adding, “Together, we can end fistula in Ghana”

International Obstetric Fistula Day is observed globally every year on May 23 to significantly raise awareness and intensify actions towards ending obstetric fistula and urge post-surgery follow-up and tracking of fistula patients.
This year’s theme is: “End Gender Inequality! End Health Inequities! End Fistula Now!”.

Dr Ganyaglo said many women and girls who suffered from obstetric fistula, an injury of the birth canal after prolonged and obstructed delivery were subjected to isolation, shame and segregation.

He explained that due to poverty, they were unable to receive prompt medical treatment and that deprived them of their health and dignity, describing that as a violation of their human rights.

“No woman or girl should be deprived of her dignity, hopes and dreams. It is their right. We should not hide them or stigmatize them since the stigma and shame alone can kill them. They need our love and assistance to have the fistula repaired and be integrated back into society”, Dr Ganyaglo added.

He said the average cost of fistula treatment including surgery and post-operative care in Ghana was approximately $700, which was well beyond the reach of most women with the condition.

Obstetric Fistula is a distressing complication of prolonged, obstructed labour, resulting in the leakage of urine or faeces or both through the vagina.

The smell of the leaking urine, faeces or both is constant and humiliating. This, if left untreated, could lead to chronic medical problems including ulcerations and kidney diseases.

A study, carried out by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in 2015, estimated that about 1,300 new cases of fistula occurred every year and yet, less than 100 cases are repaired each year leaving 1, 200 cases without care.

Dr Ganyaglo noted that women suffering from obstetric fistula were in all regions of the country and urged individuals and corporate bodies to support the Government to repair, restore, and empower women with the challenge.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped women from going into labour, rather, it has worsened the case of women in these obstetric fistula prevalent areas as hospital visits decrease for fear of contracting the virus.

Dr Ganyaglo advised women who suffer from fistula conditions to report to the health facility and urged families with such patients to take them to the health facility for the necessary assistance.

Each year, between 50,000 to 100,000 women worldwide are affected by obstetric fistula, with an estimation of more than two million young women living with untreated obstetric fistula in Asia and sub- Saharan Africa.

The menace is a historical issue in the developed world. However, it is still prevalent in poor resource countries like Ghana. This is based on the fact that about two million women in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia are still suffering from the disorder.

Meanwhile, it has been eliminated in Europe and America whiles women in developing countries continue to suffer in silence.

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