HOME FRONT How VVF surgery changes women’s lives in Ji­gawa

Daily Trust - - DIGEST -

Vesi­co­v­agi­nal Fis­tula (VVF) could have been a ma­jor med­i­cal catas­tro­phe for women in Ji­gawa State, but for the in­ter­ven­tion of the Medecins Sans Fron­tieres (MSF) oth­er­wise re­ferred to as Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders.

MSF car­ried out sur­gi­cal oper­a­tions on 296 out of 440 women ad­mit­ted with VVF cases at the MSF Jahun Center in Jahun Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area of the state.

VVF, which is also known as ob­stet­ric fis­tula, is a dev­as­tat­ing med­i­cal con­di­tion de­vel­oped by women as a re­sult of an in­jury dur­ing child­birth; the vic­tims suf­fer from the dis­ease as a re­sult of pro­longed or go­ing through some dif­fi­cul­ties while in labour.

Un­der such con­di­tion, the ex­pec­tant mother does not only stand the high risk of los­ing her baby dur­ing birth but will also be left with an ab­nor­mal­ity, de­vel­op­ing a hole in her birth canal which is refers to as the fis­tula.

It is es­ti­mated that there are about 800,000 women and girls suf­fer­ing from such con­di­tion in Nige­ria, with the north­ern part of the coun­try car­ry­ing the high­est pro­por­tion of the vic­tims.

In Ji­gawa State, the vic­tims of such se­ri­ous med­i­cal dis­or­der, ex­pe­ri­ence se­ries of trauma from so­cial stigma, di­vorce and in some ex­treme in­stances iso­la­tion as even their par­ents aban­don them.

Apart from un­der­go­ing free med­i­cal re­pairs, vic­tims also go through so­cial re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­cesses that will ease the way for their rein­te­gra­tion into the larger so­ci­ety.

Vic­tims are only dis­charged from the treat­ment center af­ter they stop any leak­age for a pe­riod of six months and that qual­i­fies them for the next process of un­der­go­ing a phys­io­ther­apy and psy­cho­log­i­cal coun­sel­ing.

If cer­ti­fied med­i­cally fit, the vic­tims will also be en­rolled into a skill ac­qui­si­tion center, where they will be camped for three months learn­ing var­i­ous trades in ad­di­tion to com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills that en­able them to spread the gospel of ob­stet­ric fis­tula, its causes, symp­toms and ac­cess­ing care in their im­me­di­ate com­mu­ni­ties.

Last week, a fourth grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony was held for the 108 women that were suc­cess­fully re­paired this year, and who have un­der­gone the so­cial re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion train­ing jointly run by the state gov­ern­ment and a non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion, VVF Foun­da­tion.

Af­ter the em­pow­er­ment train­ing, the women were pre­sented with starter packs that will en­able them es­tab­lish their own busi­nesses. At the cer­e­mony, the vic­tims were given set of sewing, grind­ing and rice thresh­ing ma­chines as well as goats for those in­ter­ested in rear­ing live­stock.

In his speech, the Project Co­or­di­na­tor of MSF, Ed Bru­mit, said his or­gan­i­sa­tion worked in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the state Min­istry of Health and that it op­er­ated in the Jahun Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal.

Ac­cord­ing to him, MSF is par­tic­u­larly con­cerned only with fis­tula re­pair say­ing, last year alone his or­gan­i­sa­tion ad­mit­ted 440 women suf­fer­ing from the dis­ease out of which 296 un­der­went surgery.

Bru­mit com­mended the vic­tims for their courage, es­pe­cially making them­selves avail­able for the pro­ce­dure which, he said, was the first step to heal­ing.

“In 2016, new ad­mis­sions in the VVF pro­gramme were 440 women; 296 surg­eries were per­formed; 241 pa­tients were dis­charged from the pro­gramme; with 70 per cent con­ti­nence rate for first pro­ce­dure pa­tients and a 76 per cent clo­sure rate.

“Once the pa­tients have been ‘dry’ (not leak­ing) for six months, they will be given a ‘Fi­nal Dis­charge’ from our ser­vice and most of them then go to Jahun VVF Hos­tel to prepare for re­newed life as pro­duc­tive cit­i­zens.

“The pur­pose of this VVF hos­tel grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony is to cel­e­brate the re­turn to a nor­mal life for th­ese women. It is also to raise aware­ness of the fis­tula prob­lem in the com­mu­nity be­cause so­cial aware­ness, an­te­na­tal care and timely ac­cess to proper ma­ter­nal care can avoid the prob­lem,” he said.

In his ad­dress, the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Fis­tula Foun­da­tion, Isa Musa, said dur­ing the three months re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gramme, all the women were given the op­por­tu­nity to learn var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills to en­able them ed­u­cate their com­mu­ni­ties on the causes of VVF, not­ing that “per­haps through this ed­u­ca­tion stig­ma­ti­sa­tion will be re­duced and all forms of iso­la­tions from ei­ther the fam­ily or the com­mu­nity will be stopped.”

He, there­fore ap­pealed to the Ji­gawa State gov­ern­ment to make ob­stet­ric treat­ment free for all vic­tims, adding that it could only be achiev­able if gov­ern­ment spon­sored the train­ing of more doc­tors on the treat­ment of the dis­ease.

He com­mended the state gov­ern­ment for sup­port­ing the foun­da­tion with man power and fa­cil­ity in Jahun to carry out the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion project on the trau­ma­tised women.

“Dur­ing the three months’ re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pe­riod, the women’s ca­pac­ity was built in rais­ing aware­ness, con­duct­ing com­mu­nity sur­veil­lance, mo­bil­i­sa­tion and follow up on re­paired pa­tients in their re­spec­tive com­mu­ni­ties.

“I call on the gov­ern­ment of Ji­gawa State to make pro­vi­sion for ad­di­tional train­ing of indige­nous doc­tors and nurses on the sur­gi­cal man­age­ment of ob­stet­ric fis­tula. There is also the need to pro­vide equip­ment, sup­plies to health fa­cil­i­ties, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices that will im­prove the phys­i­cal, so­cial and vo­ca­tional ap­ti­tude of women af­fected with ob­stet­ric Vis­tula,” he stressed.

In her re­mark, the Com­mis­sioner for Women Af­fairs and So­cial De­vel­op­ment, Ha­jiya Ladi Dansure, said her min­istry pro­vided ac­com­mo­da­tion, feed­ing, psy­chother­apy, skill ac­qui­si­tion and em­pow­er­ment while MSF took the re­spon­si­bil­ity of free surgery, treat­ment and med­i­ca­tion.

Dansure main­tained that while the skill ac­qui­si­tion train­ing was run un­der gov­ern­ment spon­sor­ship, the Fis­tula Foun­da­tion in­di­cated in­ter­est in 2014 to take over the train­ing of the vic­tims, adding that the foun­da­tion has trained 500 women and dis­charged a num­ber of pa­tients.

The foun­da­tion has trained 500 women and dis­charged pa­tients,” she said.

One of the dis­charged pa­tients, who does not want her name in print, com­mended the gov­ern­ment, VVF Foun­da­tion and the MSF for chang­ing their lives from de­spon­dency to one full of hope not­ing that with the skill she ac­quired in tai­lor­ing, in ad­di­tion to the gift of a starter pack, it will not be dif­fi­cult for her to re­build her life.

On whether she will go back to her for­mer hus­band, she said, “I am not ready for that but if it be­comes nec­es­sary there must be some con­di­tions that will be at­tached to re­mar­ry­ing him.”

Dis­charged VVF pa­tients on their grad­u­a­tion day.

Treash­ers & Grind­ing ma­chines for pa­tients. VVF

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