Abdulrazaq Mungadi, Gombe
All hopes were given up on her ever surviving Vesico Virginal Fistula (VVF), a medical complication she had during her first child birth some 10 years ago. The degree of her problem was such that made her undergo surgery five times in three different health facilities.
So recounts 26-year-old Aisha Abubakar of Bajoga community in Funakaye Local Government Area (LGA) of Gombe State, on how she at the age of 18 got VVF, a devastating medical condition that affects women at their childbearing age. According to experts, the medical complication is associated with poverty, with the highest incidents mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the condition having been eradicated in developed countries.
Narrating her ordeal, Aisha told Daily Sun that she developed the problem due to misinformation on child birth.
“I got married at the age of 16, I got pregnant one year after and when it was time to deliver I didn’t know that I was already in labor until after one day.
“Before then I had had prolonged labor. When we arrived at a hospital in Bajoga, the doctors said that I must go through Caesarean Session (CS) to deliver the baby and that they cannot do it in the hospital, which was done two days later after we were referred to a hospital in Gombe metropolis.
“I will hardly forget that day because the operation was successful, but my baby boy could not be saved; then I came out with a devastating problem that has changed my life up till this moment,” she said.
Explaining the misinformation she had about childbirth, Aisha said:
“Before my marriage, we had been told by our elder sisters who have had children, that childbirth was so painful and that it is a horrible experience that no one can explain. So, I was expecting something very dreadful that was why I didn’t know when I was in labor because the pain I had was somehow minor to me and I was made to understand that my problem was caused by the prolonged or delayed labor that I had at home.”
To get back her life, Aisha said: “I had five surgeries in three different hospitals in Gombe, Kano and Kebbi States, which were not fully successful until the last operation which was sponsored by the Evangel Vesico Fistula Centre at Bingham University Teaching Hospital in Jos, Plateau State.
“I had been suffering for about 9 years until this intervention came. Even though I still experience stomach pains whenever I have sex with my husband. It was very terrible for me because apart from the pains there is discrimination in society and now that I have been healed I still can’t have a child. Even though I am still going visiting health facilities to seek medical assistance that would address my problem,” Aisha said.
Aisha Abubakar is of about one hundred patients in Gombe State who have benefited from free surgical treatment on Vesico-virginal fistula (VVF) and Recto-virginal fistula by the Evangel Vesico Fistula Centre which was sponsored by Christophel Blinded Mission (CBM).
Addressing reporters shortly after a sensitisation and stakeholders meeting on Saturday in Gombe metropolis, Dr Sunday Lengmang, the CBM Project Director, called for strengthening of the Nigerian healthcare system, with more sensitisation for women of childbearing age to deliver in health facilities.
He revealed that there are about 150,000 women suffering from the medical condition that is yet to be attended to and that the records indicate an additional twelve to thirteen thousand new cases each year.
“We have about 19 VVF centers in Nigeria and the national strategic framework for the eradication of fistula recommends that every state should at least have one VVF center so that we will be able to curb the scourge of fistula,” Lengmang said.
Adding that the rate of repair being about 3,000 per year, he said that it might take the country about 50 years to be able to eradicate the menace.
“That is assuming there will be no new cases; so the key in controlling fistula in Nigeria is in the area of prevention,” he said.
As a way forward in attending to some of the women with fistula who might have been forgotten in society, the organisation set up Saturday’s stakeholders meeting in Gombe, where leaders from traditional, religious and community groups, as well as people with disability, were brought together for sensitisation, to let them know what fistula is and the devastating nature of the condition.
“The CBM office has provided money for us to take care of women with fistula in Gombe State. We are targeting 50 women for VVF surgery and also to train 100 health care providers who will be working in rural areas, communities and health care centers. They will help in curbing and in prevention of the problem of obstetric fistula,” he said.
While calling on the Gombe State Government to develop a strategy for the elimination of fistula in the state, the fistula surgeon said the government should identify a desk officer that would oversee all issues related to fistula in the state ministry of health.
“They should also work on having a clear budget head to fund the running of activities that would lead to the elimination of the problem; both for its treatment, prevention and rehabilitation,” Lengmang advised.
The 2016 NDHS document revealed that Northern Nigeria has a highest prevalence of fistula in the country. “Though the document said the North Central has the highest, but we that are working on fistula have reasons to believe that it is worst in the North East, followed by the North West and then North Central,” he explained.
“From the outreach that we did in Gombe State, we were able to screen 109 patients and out that number over 70 have fistula. We operated 19 here in Gombe and referred 50 to Jos. We have operated all those, that is why we are back again to screening more women for the free outreach,” the CBM Project Director said.