Limited help for Nigerian women, girls with stigmatizing condition

| December 1, 2016
Nolllywood filmmaker and actress Stephanie Linus in a scene from the film "Dry."

Nolllywood filmmaker and actress Stephanie Linus in a scene from the film “Dry.”

(GIN)—A disabling medical condition linked to child marriage and early childbirth is receiving limited attention from the Nigerian government, according to medical professionals in published reports.

Doctors say the condition, known as obstetric fistula, is the result of prolonged labor without prompt medical intervention, causing a hole in a woman’s birth canal which leaves her with chronic incontinence and in many cases, the loss of the baby.

“We don’t have enough doctors to do the repair surgeries for these women and the women are so poor, they cannot afford to go to a doctor when they are in labor,” says Idowu Peters who coordinates the Nigerian government’s national fistula program.

“There are only five doctors in Nigeria who are skilled enough to conduct fistula repair surgeries without supervision, Peter told Al Jazeera reporter Chika Oduah. “Those doctors have trained hundreds of health workers to assist them with the procedure, handling the pre- and post-surgery care, administering the anesthesia and other duties.”

Women with fistula are stigmatized among their peers and by society in general.

The Nigerian National Strategic Framework for fistula prevention estimates that between 400,000 and 800,000 women are affected. Nearly half of worldwide fistula cases occur in Nigeria, with about 20,000 new cases each year and as many as 90% of the cases that go untreated.

USAID, the U.N. Population Fund, and the Fistula Foundation are working to address the challenge of obstetric fistula in five states in northwestern Nigeria.

At a recent conference on child marriage in Abuja, the gender and development specialist for UNICEF, Venera Zakirova, said: “Unfortunately obstetric fistula is mostly as a result of early marriages forced on adolescent girls who have not fully developed to handle the rigorous exercise of delivery.”

Activism to prevent fistula is one of the goals of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence which began Nov. 25 and lasts until Dec. 10.

A Nigerian film on the condition—“Dry”—is due for release and can be seen in part on a YouTube video.

Other suggested actions for the 16 days of activism in Africa and the U.S. can be found on the Twitter feed for UNFPA.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: Africa Briefs, Health

About the Author ()

GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK distributes news and feature articles on Africa and the developing world to mainstream, alternative, ethnic and minority-owned outlets in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to increase the perspectives available to readers in North America and to bring into their view information about global issues that are overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media.

Comments are closed.