By Bashir Hassan Abubakar
Bauchi State Ministry of Health and the National Obstetric Fistula Center Ningi (NOFICN), with support from USAID Engender Health and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Tuesday 23rd May, 2023 commemorated this year’s International Day to end Fistula in Bauchi metropolis.
The day started with a walk that started from the ever busy multipurpose complex with staff of the state ministry of health and that of the fistula center, along side some development partners, survivors, CSOs , media and community leaders among other non state actors, walking through one of the major street in the metropolis, Kobi Street.
The procession walked through the street holding placards with various inscriptions highlighting awareness messages on the scourge of Fistula and ways to mitigate the scourge in communities.
At the palace of Chiroman Bauchi Alhaji Nuru Adamu Jumba where the walk terminates, the procession were warmly received by the traditional title holder and other leaders of the various communities within Bauchi metropolis.
Highlighting some of the causes of Fistula in women as part of awareness creation, Dr. Bawa Maryam Shehu of the National Obstetric Fistula Center Ningi, said the ailment is largely caused due to prolonged labor at home that exceeds more than three days and the absence of skilled birth attendants.
Dr. Maryam disclosed that in Africa it was estimated that about two million people, mostly women are affected with Obstetric Fistula every year. According to the health expert, 500 persons in Nigeria are also diagnosed annually with the scourge.
She also disclosed that that last year NOFIC Ningi admitted 300 fistula patients and that out of the number, 296 of them had successfully underwent repairs and have since recuperated and joined their families.
Dr. Maryam further said that aside the prolonged unattended labor, other causes are genital mutilation and non attendance of antenatal care at health facility.
She said that research has shown that it is not only restricted to first pregnancies alone and all pregnant women irrespective of whether it is a first delivery or not are prone to Obstetric Fistula if skilled birth attendants do not attend to them at the time of delivery. She also advised that at least women should attain 18 years of age before considering conceiving.
Dr. Maryam further said that Bauchi state is lucky because of the center that sited in the state, stressing that “on the average, we do carry our about 10 fistula repairs on patients free of charge and in most cases, such repairs are successful”.
While speaking on ‘Fistula burden on individual, family and community’, another health expert from NOFIC Ningi, Dr. Iyabo Kazim said Fistula patients needs care and support from their spouses, their immediate families and the community at large.
Dr. Kazim said that stigmatizing patients afflicted with Fistula is significantly slowing the healing process of the patients. She said that ailment is curable and preventable. She then called on the women to make it a habit of accessing health care services from their respective skilled service providers within their immediate communities.
In a goodwill message, representative of Engender Health, Mrs. Elizabeth Otodo expressed her gratitude to community leaders and other non state actors for supporting the cause to end fistula in Bauchi State.
In a heart wrenching testimony, a survivor of ailment, Hauwa Mohammed Aliyu said that leaving with fistula is a herculean and depressing task which the patient alone cannot handle.
She said that, though her case is different because of the tremendous support she is getting from her husband and her family, she however lamented on the difficulty others are facing due to absence of such support.
The 30 year old Hauwa said that such difficulties are compounded due to poverty and stigma that most of the unsupported patients are facing from family members.
She advised that Government should be supporting Fistula patients with an empowerment initiative to able them fend for themselves in the face of neglect from their families and communities. This according to her will greatly aid their healing and subsequent reintegration into their respective communities.
Earlier in his remarks the Director of Administration of NOFIC Ningi Alhaji Dahiru Adamu Bello said that Bauchi state is lucky to have one of the 3 Centers sited in the State and also called on women to avail themselves the opportunity of being offered free medical services when afflicted with Obstetric Fistula. He said the Federal Government of Nigeria has directed all the centers to offer free services that includes feeding to patients of Fistula.
In their separate remarks, representatives of Bauchi State Ministry of Health, State Primary Health Care Development Agency and the Hospital Management Board all commended the efforts of NOFIC Ningi, Development Partners, Community leaders CSOs and the media for being part of the awareness campaign.
They equally expressed their readiness at all times partner with any entity that would support the improvement of health care services in Bauchi State.
In a closing remarks the Chiroman Bauchi and Hakimin Cikin Gari, Alhaji Nuru Adamu Jumba thanked the organizers for the awareness creation activities and also pledged to direct his ward heads to also cascade the campaign down to their respective wards.
Alhaji Jumba then called on caregivers to always allow their spouses to access health care services from skilled personnel at facilities closest to them.
The titled elder man also shared an experience he had with a Fistula patient some time ago and the role he played in facilitating her trip to the Ningi Fistula Center to access health care and concluded by saying that, as at now the patient is hale and hearty and happily married.
Our correspondent reports that part of the activity commemorating this year’s International Day to End Fistula with the theme: “20 Years On-Progress But not Enough! Act Now”, will be a live radio phone-in program.