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