By James Deng Dimo
July 8, 2014 (WAU) – The health minister in South Sudan’s Western Bahr el Ghazal state, Isaac Clerto, has launched a campaign aimed at eradicating fistula, a pandemic condition which occurs as a result of complications during childbirth.
- South Sudan’s Western Bahr el Ghazal state has launched a campaign aimed at eradicating fistula (ST)
He said the construction of a new women’s ward will help in the diagnosis and treatment of fistula.
“Since we have open[ed] up [a] women’s ward, we have also set up [an] obstetric fistula treatment campaign aim[ed] at eradicating fistula infection to restore South Sudanese women’s dignity,” he said during a visit to the ward on Tuesday.
Fistula develops during prolonged or obstructed labour when the baby’s head puts pressure on the lining of the birth canal and eventually rips through the wall of the rectum and bladder.
Women in developing countries who experience obstructed labour will often spend days in excruciating agony before their baby is finally born. In most cases the baby will die and if the woman survives she will be left with devastating internal injuries.
The condition results in chronic urinary or faecal incontinence, with sufferers often shunned by their families and communities.
Clerto has warned parents not to marry their daughters off before they have reached maturity, saying underage girls were particularly susceptible to complications during labour such as fistula.
He said women with fistula often become socially isolated and suffer severe psychological trauma as a result of losing their status and dignity in their communities.
Patricia Baptist, a registered nurse at Wau teaching hospital who is in charge of the fistula ward, said that poor women are far more likely to die in childbirth, with pregnancy-related complications among the leading causes of death and disability in women under the reproductive age.
She says the hospital has successfully performed 50 operations and called on other South Sudanese women who may be suffering from fistula to seek treatment.
It is estimated that more than 60,000 South Sudanese women suffer from obstetric fistula, a preventable condition that has been almost entirely eradicated in the developed world where access to emergency obstetric care is widely available.
Grinding poverty, lack of health care and the low status of women and girls in developing countries is cited as the root causes for fistula.
Of the estimated one million women who suffer from obstetric fistula worldwide, less than 20,000 will receive treatment each year.