The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Fallen has raised an alarm over the increasing statistics and rising burden of obstetrics fistula among women in Nigeria.
Mrs. Tallen, who spoke on Friday, May 21, during a joint ministerial press conference in Abuja to commemorate the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula/VVF, assured that the Federal Government would carry out surgical repairs on anyone identified to be having Obstetric Fistula.
The Minister, who noted that the areas for the surgical procedure for women and girls suffering from obstetric fistula are Gwagwalada, FCT, as well as Adamawa State,. will be doing this in collaboration with the ministries if health as well as women affairs and other partner organisations.
Noting that the the number of cases of obstetric fistula among Nigerian women is on the increase, Tallen said the prevalence figure is 3.2 per 1000 birth while the country carries an estimated burden of 13,000 new cases every year.
In Nigeria, the prevalence of Obstetric Fistula is 3.2 per 1000 birth and it was estimated that about 13,000 new cases occur annually, suggesting that the backlog of the unrepaid case may take about 83 years to clear at the present rate of repair.
Annually, an additional 50,000 to 100,000 new cases occur in the country. This alarming statistics and rising burden of Obstetric Fistula is worrisome and unacceptable.”
According to the Minister, socio-cultural beliefs/practices, socio-economic status and poor health services are some of the reasons for the prevalence of VVF.
She also said VVF had remained one of the devastating morbidity issues afflicting about a million women in Nigeria.
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Many girls aged 11-15 in Nigeria become mothers either after an early marriage to older men or through accidental pregnancy as a result of sexual intercourse with peers. Continuing, she said:
“Their small pelvic sizes cause most of these young girls to experience obstructed labour.
“Unskilled birth attendants simply cut through the vagina to create a passage for the baby which results in vesico-vagina fistula, the leakage of urine and feaces through the vagina, causing women to become outcast by society”.
On account of the seriousness of the condition, the minister called on stakeholders to join the fight against early marriage and increased school enrollment for girls, as well as the recruitment of qualified birth attendants for childbirth.
Noting that there are about 13,000 new cases of obstetric fistula registered each year, Health Minister, Osagie Ehanire, who was represented by the Public Health Specialist of the ministry, Dr. Salma Kolo, said the number showed discrimination, a lack of healthcare response, and a health system that failed to protect women and girls.
While speaking, the UN Population Fund’s Country Representative, Ms. Ulla Mueller, said that out of an estimated 500,000 cases registered worldwide, Nigeria accounts for the most cases with 150,000.
Mueller used the occasion to reaffirm UNFPA’s commitment to improving women’s sexual and reproductive health.
In his contribution, the Director of Women and Children in the ministry, Harry Ogwuche, said obstetric fistula is a serious human rights abuse that leaves victims vulnerable and stigmatized.
Harping on the role of the media in the fight against the health condition, the National President of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Ladi Bala, urged the media to use different platforms to promote girl-child education, women empowerment, and the abolition of early marriage.