Beating fistula trauma in Kilifi County

6 September 2016
Participants at the fistula camp visits the Beyond Zero mobile clinic
Participants at the fistula camp visits the Beyond Zero mobile clinic

In April UNFPA supported a fistula training camp in Kilifi County organized by the Freedom from Fistula Foundation.

The free-of-charge week long camp provided training of health care workers and community health volunteers on obstetric fistula prevention and management. 75 community health volunteers and 19 health care workers were trained.

A life changing treatment

Suffering from fistula, a hole between the vagina and the bladder caused by prolonged obstructed labour, is an excruciating experience leaving a woman incontinent and often isolated from her community.

Globally, there are more than 2 million women and girls suffering from obstetric fistula, which is a manageable condition. Occurrence of obstetric fistula signifies poor access to quality health care and a weak health system.

The leading cause is prolonged obstructed labour with poor access to emergency obstetric care. Other factors associated with fistula include child marriages, poverty, harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and sexual, gender based violence.

Treating obstetric fistula is a life changing event for a suffering women, giving her the ability to return to a normal life.

31 women received treatment

During the Camp, the number of women screened were 65 and 31 women benefited from fistula repair surgeries. Once they have recovered from the operation they will require assistance and psychosocial support in getting back to society and recovering their lost years. That’s why prevention is the better alternative.

When discussing prevention of fistula 3 major delays are in focus. Delay in making decision to seek care, delay in reaching a health facility and delay in receiving optimum care at facility. Eliminating these is a key strategy to eradicating obstetric fistula, maternal morbidities and mortality.

UNFPA supported the fistula activities through Kilifi County Health Department in collaboration with Freedom from Fistula Foundation and Flying Doctors Society of Africa Royal Media Services. 

A second similar camp is planned for Kisii County in September 2016, where we target 90 fistula survivors to benefit from surgery.

More community sensitization and mobilization is needed to ensure that those who are suffering from fistula can overcome stigma and benefit from treatment and rehabilitation services. UNFPA looks forward to working with networks and fistula survivors as ambassadors of hope.

Great work is going on towards prevention of obstetric fistula. Training of health care workers, equipping health facilities, free maternity services and the Beyond Zero Campaign amongst others.

Partly due to inequity, Kenya still experiences unacceptably high numbers of new cases of fistula each year.