Home News FG launches comprehensive fistula care to address 400,000 cases

FG launches comprehensive fistula care to address 400,000 cases

by Haruna Gimba
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By Iyemah David

Nigeria’s Federal Government has launched comprehensive obstetric fistula care, initially targeting the National Obstetric Fistula Centres in Katsina, Bauchi, Ebonyi and Edo states, and also addressing backlog of nearly 400,000 cases.

The programme which is to be implemented by the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), will include saving lives, reducing physical and financial burden on women, and ensuring health for all Nigerians.

Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate disclosed this during the inauguration of the Fistula Free Programme Steering Committee under NHIA Intervention at a ministerial launch on Wednesday in Abuja.

Obstetric fistula is a devastating childbirth injury that affects millions of young women, primarily in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The condition, which leaves women unable to control their bladder and bowels, is caused by prolonged and obstructed labour where the baby’s head gets stuck in the birth canal, cutting off blood flow to the mother’s soft tissues and creating a hole between the bladder or rectum and the vagina.

Surgery is the only cure and untreated fistula can lead to constant incontinence, kidney damage, ulcers, frequent infections and inability to have children.

Prof. Pate, therefore, said that the comprehensive programme, set to begin in June, is to provide immediate medical interventions and long-term preventative measures in the country.

The minister added that the programme focused on preventing fistula by ensuring mothers received proper nourishment, supervision by skilled professionals during delivery, and access to emergency specialist care to avoid complications.

He noted that the initiative underscored the importance of community and societal involvement.

The minister said “empowering and educating girls to ensure they are ready for motherhood is a key aspect of the programme, requiring the support of community and political leaders and civil society.”

He explained that the key components of the programme include reducing the cost of access to treatment, surgical interventions, education, counselling and transportation of patients.

The initiative, he added, also highlights the dedication of health workers and importance of training programmes for surgical skills.

“This issue has been present for a very long time, but we are finally taking significant steps to address it.

“The success of the initiative relies on the commitment of healthcare professionals and community support.

“With the right political backing and sustained efforts, this initiative aims to break the cycle of fistula and ultimately eliminate the problem in the country,” he stressed.

He noted that addressing the challenge would help the country to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal three, which entails ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all.

In his presentation, Dr Kelechi Ohiri, the Director-General of National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), outlined a comprehensive strategy aimed at addressing the needs of women suffering from fistula, stressing the importance of financial access and systemic support for vulnerable populations.

Ohiri, who doubles as the president of the committee, also highlighted the alignment of the initiative with the Nigerian health sector’s strategic blueprint, particularly focusing on the intersection of poverty and vulnerability among women with obstetric fistula.

He described fistula survivors as “typically young, malnourished and from impoverished households, making them prime candidates for targeted intervention.

He explained a phased approach, starting with the National Obstetric Fistula Centres in Katsina, Bauchi, Ebonyi and Edo, and later expand to other hospitals capable of providing care to women living with the condition.

According to him, around two million women live with unrepaired obstetric fistula globally, with Nigeria accounting for about 7.5 per cent of the number.

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