President elect, International Society of Obstetric Fistula Surgeons, Professor Oladosu Ojengbede has decried Nigeria having the largest burden of obstetric fistula cases globally, indicating that the association’s 6th international conference was holding in Nigeria to proffer a solution to it.
Ojengbede, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Ibadan, who described obstetric fistula as a huge problem, declared the majority of the 2.5million women living with obstetric fistula globally reside in Nigeria.
According to the expert, the high burden of obstetric fistula in Nigeria was an indicator of the nation’s healthcare services that did not provide a wide spread equitably distributed quality obstetric care for women, particularly during labour and child delivery.
He declared: “we expect that someone who is skilled attend to a pregnant woman in labour. But in Nigeria, only about a third of women ever get attended to by someone who is skilled.”
The medical expert, who remarked that the quality of care within the health sector has really gone down, declared, “this conference is trying to see how we can increase skills of surgeons, thus improve care of women who already are living with the condition, especially those with really complicated cases.”
He declared that though incidence of obstetric fistula is more in the northern part of Nigeria, it was becoming increasingly common also in the southern parts of the country.
“Majority of obstetric fistula in the northern part of Nigeria are direct effect of child birth due to obstructed deliveries but then in Southern Nigeria, it is from poor obstetric services, especially in women who undergo surgery for other conditions like fibroid, prolapse and other gynaecological conditions as well as caesarean section.”
According to him, challenges faced in repairing women with obstetric fistula was far more than closing the hole through which they are leaking urine and or faeces.
He added, “they expect to be able to have sexual relationships with their partners and even become pregnant and have their babies delivered safely if they so desire as well as properly resettled into their families.”
Ojengbede said all over the world, there are no enough health workers, nurses inclusive, to help ensure women with obstetric fistula access proper surgical treatment.
According to him, the dearth of doctors and nurses with expertise in obstetric fistula repair was because “the surgery is time consuming, delicate and difficult. And of course, there is no money in it.”
In achieving a fistula-free generation, he stressed the need for increased male involvement in issues that affect the health of their wives as well as in ensuring a good and functional health system.
He stated that men have to understand that they need to care more than they are doing now for women in pregnancy, particularly during labour and childbirth as well as support them in case they sustain complications like obstetric fistula from childbirth.
On the part of the government, he called for increased strengthening of the nation’s primary health care centres, saying that this was core to obstetric fistula eradication.