KENYA: Fistula Affects 5,000 Women At Delivery

More than 5,000 women experience complications during delivery leading to a condition referred to as obstetric fistula.

The problem occurs when a pregnant woman goes through prolonged labour, causing damage on the birth which then results in a hole either between the birth canal and bladder or between the birth canal and rectum.

A fistula surgeon at Nairobi's Jamaa Mission Hospital, Dr Julius Kiiru, said the condition causes urine and faeces to pass through the birth canal uncontrollably.

"These women are isolated and stigmatised by the society because of their condition and therefore they have to stay at home," Kiiru said.

He said for every 1,000 deliveries, two to three women develop the abnormal hole.

Speaking during a media workshop at a Nairobi hotel, Kiiru noted that such women might stop menstruating.

"Due to their inability to retain urine, they may end up having a foul smell and therefore force them to stay at home," he said.

Kiiru said a research showed that 99 per cent of this complication occurs when a woman is delivering a boy whose chance of survival are slim.

Besides obstructed labour, fistula can also be caused by sexual abuse, rape, unsafe abortion, surgical trauma, and cancer of cervix or radiotherapy.

Poor birth spacing is also a major factor as the woman has no time to recover from the previous delivery.

Kiiru said the problem was rampant in the Eastern region.

Some cultural practices like female circumcision, Kiiru said, were also to blame for the problem.

A surgery to repair fistula locally costs at least Sh52,000, while an insertion of catheter, an artificial tube, is done free of charge.

However, Kiiru, said many affected women fail to disclose the problem, as it was perceived as embarrassing.

The head of Reproductive Health department at the Ministry of Health, Dr Josephine Kibaru, said the Government had set up 14 comprehensive units to treat women afflicted by the complication.

She said 80 per cent of women in rural areas do not deliver under skilled care hence the risk.

She said that, for instance, in West Pokot the community believes that a woman must deliver her first child at a home, as a sign of heroism.


AUTHOR: Elizabeth Mwai

URL: Click here

DATE: 03/10/2007

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