March 25, 2023

Phebe Hospital, UNFPA Launch free Treatment for Fistula Survivors in Bong

The fight against fistula is gaining ground in Liberia, as another campaign has been launched in Suakoko, Bong County. Obstetric fistula is a medical condition that occurs when a foetus gets stuck in the birth canal during childbirth, thus causing a hole between the rectum and vagina.

According to reports, most at risk are teenagers whose bodies are not fully developed to give birth. Most patients treated thus far have been impoverished girls and women. It is also reported that over 60 percent of Liberian females give birth without the supervision of a trained health worker, which leads to high levels of mortality and morbidity, including obstructed fistula, according to UNFPA.

Reports also have it that 57 percent of long-term victims are abandoned by their husbands or partners. However, many women continue to be rejected by their communities, even once they have been treated. With support from the EU-funded Spotlight Initiative, Phebe Hospital and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have begun two weeks campaign to treat women and girls with fistula in Liberia.

A team of local and expatriate medical doctors, including Dr. Ambereen Sleemi from the US-based International Medical Response (IMR), is treating more than 20 women and girls with fistulae at the Phebe Hospital in Suakoko, Bong County. According to the Medical Director of Phebe Hospital, Dr. Jefferson Sibley said, the fistula survivors are from various parts of the country.

Speaking on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, at the official launch of the campaign in Phebe, Bong County, Dr. Sibley said it was unacceptable for women to give birth and come out with childbearing injuries that threaten their survival. He stressed the need for comprehensive support for fistula survivors in Liberia, including surgery, rehabilitation through psychosocial counseling, skills training, and social reintegration.

For her part, Bong County Health Officer Dr. Cynthia Blapooh said women with fistula endure enormous psychological and social trauma and must be empowered to reclaim their place in society.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) representative at the launch called for substantial efforts to end obstetric fistula in Liberia. UNFPA Sexual and Reproductive Health Specialist Ms. Woseh Gobeh-Weah said: “correcting myths and misconceptions about fistula and providing accurate information about its causes and cure can help prevent it from occurring, encourage compassion for those who endure it, and lessen the stigma that is often associated with the condition.”

According to her, the key to ending fistula is to prevent it from happening in the first place. “The prevention of fistula is only possible when women have access to quality maternal health care services, including family planning, skilled attendance at the birth of their babies, and emergency obstetric care.”

The UNFPA Liberia Reproductive Health Specialist reaffirmed UNFPA’s commitment to continue supporting the Ministry of Health and its efforts to strengthen Liberia’s maternal and newborn health system.

She used the occasion to thank the European Union for its support in delivering health and rights to women and girls in Liberia. The EU-funded Spotlight Initiative is a multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

Reported by: Timothy R. Yoko

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