By Janjay F. Campbell
The Liberia Fistula Project of the Family Health Division at the Ministry of Health launched a fistula prevention awareness and community engagement last week in Margibi County.
The fistula awareness that was supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with funding from Zonta International was done in the rural part of Margibi aimed at educating women and young girls to help them understand the importance of going to a hospital for treatment when they are pregnant.
Madam Emma Kennedy Karbaka who is the Clinical Assistant for Liberia Fistula Project at the Ministry of Health said fistula is a condition and not a disease and that it is increasing because due to the Ebola outbreak, most of the hospitals were closed and most pregnant women had to give birth at home or on the streets.
She is encouraging victims to go to hospitals for treatment and that they should not be ashamed to explain to other people how the awareness team which targeted two districts in the county helped to have them cured.
She is urging all elderly women in the various towns and villages not to carry pregnant women behind the house to deliver their babies because at the end of the day they will have fistula and promised that any woman who goes to the hospital for delivery will be given a baby kit.
She said the message is not for elderly women alone but for health workers who are in the constant habit of catering to pregnant women at home and not taking them to hospitals. She stressed that this should stop to help decrease the fistula cases.
JoettaTarlo, a strong advocate for the prevention of fistula told women and young girls in the various towns and villages that it was mostly pregnant women who should make sure that they go to a hospital and not depend on the elderly ladies in the town to deliver their babies.
Ms. Tarlo stressed that women who have fistula are ashamed to come around people because of their offensive odor and because they are being stigmatized. Giving them the prevention of hope, she said there is cure for fistula and that women with the disease can become someone acceptable in the society.
She mentioned that when a woman has fistula, she can be operated on and taken to a rehab center where she will stay and recover. While recovering, there are volunteers at the rehab center who will teach the victim how to sew, bake and read etc.
Some of the villages that were visited by the awareness team had survivors while others had victims. The villagers welcome the team and were anxious to know what was being said. They were attentive and said that they will spread the message around.