Temitope Alonge, the Chief Medical Director of University College Hospital, Ibadan, says the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is partnering with the VVF centre in the premier health facility to address the condition, including reintegration of patients.
Mr Alonge made this known to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) while fielding questions in Ibadan on the treatment and rehabilitation of VVF victims into the society.
“Fistula Care Plus, USA, began supporting the centre in 2012 to address complex cases. The centre is a training centre and accepts referrals from neighbouring state hospitals across the South West in addition to providing family planning services.
“A pool effort sponsored by a Nigerian Nollywood actress was successfully carried out in 2014 on 20 women.
“We were able to bring hope and succour to the women who had been suffering and living with this condition for varying periods of time. The women had repair surgeries done at no cost to them and their families.
“UCH reserves 14 bed spaces for fistula patients. But this has now been expanded to 21 bed spaces.
“Through collaboration with Fistula Care Project, we have been able to build community awareness and increase focus on the integration of family planning services with fistula and maternal health care,” he said.
NAN reports that UCH is the only facility in the South-west catering for VVF patients.
Mr Alonge, however, called on the federal government, international health organisations and other stakeholders to partner Nigeria to fight the menace, saying it is becoming a threat to public health.
He also called on federal government and other philanthropists in the health sector to intervene in the rehabilitation of the victims in the country.
Another Fistula surgeon and Head of Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UCH, Ayo Arowojodu, told NAN that the federal government needs to strengthen the health system and change public perception about VVF.
“We have realised that early marriage is no longer one of the predisposing factors to developing VVF. Any woman can develop fistula at any age, if during delivery she fails to go to a place where she can get safe CS.
“Statistics show that every day, 145 women in Nigeria die giving birth. About 12,000 to 15,000 others end up with obstetric fistula, one of the complications of delayed birth.
“We need to ensure that the Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Nigeria trains the medical students and house officers.
“This is because most Caesarean Section (CS) done in hospitals are not performed by specialists; we should tailor the training not only to the specialists but also to the younger medical officers,’’ he said.
A Surgeon in Ogun, Dr Adewunmi Alayaki, called on the federal government to subsidise the treatment of VVF.
He told NAN in Abeokuta that the treatment needed to be subsidised as most patients are indigent and could not afford to pay for the treatment.
Mr Alayake, however, said the ailment was not too rampant in the South West Zone.
“The last one I saw was last year in the State Hospital Ilaro. I referred her to UCH Ibadan.
“Because it is not rampant here, we really don’t need a centre for it, the sub-specialist in the repair of it in our tertiary institutions are enough to take care of them,’’ he said.
Mr Alayaki, a former Secretary of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), urged the appropriate authorities to engage in rigorous advocacy because of the way patients are treated as outcasts.
He also advised relations of the sufferers to exercise patience with them and give them lots of care and love while also looking for a way to cure them.
“We need a lot of advocacy on that; they are seen as outcasts and because there’s no money to treat them, coupled with the perpetual urine odour oozing out of them, nobody wants to associate with them.
“But if their relations and friends get to know there’s a solution which they can afford, I believe they should settle for that, rather than pushing them away,” he added.
In Osun, Orgy Ernest, a Consultant on Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex (OAUTHC), Ile-Ife, said victims of VVF needed encouragement and love from their relatives for them to be able to feel free in the society.
Mr Ernest noted that early ante-natal care by pregnant women at recognised hospitals was one of the ways to prevent VVF.
He said husbands should encourage their wives to always patronise qualified doctors during pregnancy, adding that in case there was any complication, the doctors would be able to correct them immediately.
He said though VVF corrective surgery was expensive, those who needed it should try everything possible to get it done.
Also speaking, Rafiu Isamotu, the Osun Commissioner for Health, said reintegrating VVF victims back into society required joint efforts of individuals and government.
Mr Isamotu said some VVF victims recently underwent free corrective surgery through the support of the state government at Wesley Hospital, Ilesa.
The commissioner said that the victims had been reintegrated back into the society quietly without any form of stigma.
“Government has being creating awareness on the causes and effects of VVF which is not that common in Osun.
“Private individuals can also play key roles through counselling, seminars, and also by going to rural areas to sensitise the people on the dangers of early marriages, among others.
“Although VVF is caused by many factors among which is prolonged child birth, there is urgent need for government and the media to partner in senstising people on the causes and prevention of VVF among women,’’ he said.
A Professor of Medical Sociology at the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, Taiwo Christopher, deplored the stigmatisation of VVF patients.
“There have been calls that VVF patients be given treatment free of charge in the country through the collaboration of the Federal Government and other well-meaning individuals,’’ he said.
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