The federal government has approved free surgical and laboratory services for all fistula patients in all Federal Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres in the country.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, announced this during the National Stakeholders Meeting on Obstetric Fistula on Tuesday in Abuja.
Mr. Adewole, represented by Osarenoma Uwaifo, a Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said that Engender Health/Fistula Care Plus, an NGO, would support all the facilities with consumables and supplies for the free surgeries.
Obstetric fistula commonly known as ”VVF” in Nigeria is an abnormal opening between the vagina and bladder or rectum often caused by prolonged obstructed labour without prompt medical intervention.
The condition results in an uncontrollable leakage of urine and feaces which causes social isolation of the women affected.
Eugene Kongnyuy, Deputy Country Representative, United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, Nigeria, revealed that in 2003 the fund provided support for over 7,000 fistula surgeries and 900 vocational trainings in Nigeria.
Mr. Kongnyuy said the meeting would provide an avenue for finding ways of addressing the backlog of fistula cases in the country.
He said the meeting would also find a way of reaching a consensus on how to achieve the goal of ending fistula by 2030.
The deputy country representative, however, added that obstetric fistula was a key component of the recently approved 8th Country Document for Nigeria 2018 to 2021.
He said the current strategic direction of UNFPA Strategic Plan 2018 to 2021 was in line with the UN General Assembly’s 2030 agenda, which is also aimed at ensuring that no one was left behind.
Mr. Kongnyuy said that maternal mortality and disabilities associated with childbirth were serious public health issues in Nigeria.
“The persistence of obstetric fistula is an indication of inequality and that the health systems are failing to protect the health and human rights of the poorest and most marginalised women.
“In the developed world we don’t have fistula anymore because most women have access to family planning; the health system is there to respond adequately to the problem.
“Women do not give birth outside health facilities,’’ he said.
He said in a situation where women needed surgical operation during child birth and the health system was not ready to provide the required surgery, the woman might eventually develop fistula.
He implored states across the country to promote programmes that would prevent and reduce the needless suffering of women by ensuring equitable coverage and timely access to health services.
Mr. Kongnyuy also called on government to renew its efforts to improve and expand education at all levels for women and girls as well as provide vocational education and technical training towards poverty eradication.