Some 161 women suffering from Obstetric Fistula are set to receive free surgery to be conducted by a team of US medics in collaboration with Kibagabaga Hospital in Gasabo District, Kigali.
The visiting team consists of 24 medical professionals from the International Organisation for Women and Development, Inc. (IOWD), a US-based non-profit organisation.
Obstetric Fistula is a severe medical condition in women when the wall between the bladder and vagina is damaged and a fistula or hole develops. This means the woman constantly leaks urine and sometimes, if the rectal wall is affected, the ability to control faecal excretion is also lost.
One of the major causes of Obstetric Fistula is prolonged obstructed labour, meaning if a woman stays in labour pains for longer than 24 hours, then she risks suffering from the dreaded fistula.
The fistula surgeries at Kibagabaga Hospital started on Sunday and run until Wednesday next week.
The hospital director, Dr Osée Sebatunzi, said 100 women with the condition had arrived, with six undergoing the surgery as of Tuesday.
“Since the campaign takes about 10 days, we expect the number of patients we invited to increase,” Dr Sebatunzi said, adding that selection of beneficiaries is done at sector level by health officials.
The collaboration between the Ministry of Health and IOWD ensures free fistula surgery three times a year; in February, April and October. The exercise has been running since 2010.
At fees value, the operation and follow-up treatment would cost between Rwf250,000 and Rwf300,000.
According to medics, most of the cases can aggravate when mothers give birth at home with no medical support.
The chronic incontinence often has severe psychosocial and socioeconomic consequences that are brought on by social rejection, resulting in isolation, feelings of shame and despair.
Agnes Musabyemariya, 52, a former sufferer, described fistula as the worst illness she has ever suffered from.
“I was always forced to change my clothes three times a day because they were always soiled. I also endured stigma and ridicule because of the smell my body emitted,” she said.
Musabyemariya commended IOWD and Kibagabaga doctors for restoring her health and dignity.
Meanwhile, IOWD founder Barbara Margolis said officials will grace the official launch, today, of an anaesthesia machine installed at the hospital a fortnight ago to aid in the treatment of the dreaded condition.