Kibagabaga Hospital yesterday received equipment worth approximately Rwf16m ($20,000), from a team of doctors and nurses under the International Organization for Women & Development (IOWD).
IOWD is a non-profit voluntary organisation that travels with a team of doctors to Rwanda at least thrice a year to operate on women affected by fistula free of charge. This trip is the team’s 20th mission to the Kibagabaga Hospital.
Since 2008, according to the Ministry of Health, 3,000 women have been treated for fistula in Rwanda.
In a ceremony organised to celebrate 604 women who have benefitted from the team’s free fistula operations since 2011, the State Minister of Health, Patrick Ndimubanzi, said that fistula needs to be stopped because it cripples women physically and socially.
“We all know that fistula is a childbirth injury that cripples women physically and socially. Women who develop fistula usually face self-stigma, social rejection and are unable to function adequately in society and, therefore, cannot achieve their full potential and live a dignified life,” he said.
Ndimubanzi said the strategy lays in improving maternal health access, training health professionals who have skills in midwifery, making sure that very simple interventions are made and also providing universal access to family planning.
“It’s also important to build capacity, to have a functional obstetric team that can repair those who have had a fistula. It’s important to perform the surgery, to train the medical personnel to rebuild their bodies and their lives. It is important that, in the near future, we, as a country, have the full capacity to treat and care for the people affected by fistula,” he said.
The Executive Director of IOWD, Barbara Margolies, said that after so many years of suffering, the women can now live a normal life, thanks to the surgeries her team conducts.
“These women suffered for so many years with fistula and they are here today with their dignity regained, they can now go to the market, sit with their families because they are healthy, strong and happy.
“We would like to thank Kibagabaga hospital because, without welcoming us, we never would have had this programme and it never would have been successful without the help of all the Rwandan doctors and nurses who have been working with us for six and a half years,” she said.
The Gasabo Vice Mayor in charge of Social Affairs, Languida Nyirabahire, appealed to the Ministry of Health (MoH) to effect changes in hospitals so as to be able to cater for patients depending on the numbers received.
“From what we have heard today, there are so many people coming from all corners of the country to seek medical attention at Kibagabaga hospital. I would like to appeal to MoH to pay extra attention to hospitals and health centres that receive more people than the rest,” she said.
She requested community health workers and the fistula survivors to spread the word so that more fistula patients can be treated early enough before the issue gets out of hand.
Alexia Mukakalisa, from Southern Province, spoke of how she contemplated suicide because of fistula only to be saved by an operation by IOWD.
“I have two children but I had lived with fistula for nine years. I just didn’t see the point in living anymore because no one could even come near me,” she said.
Today, Mukakalisa’s life has changed for the better, she is not only fending for her family but she is considering remarriage.
A fistula is condition that happens during child delivery when a hole is punctured between two organs or an organ and the outside.
Such a hole can be on the bladder or the rectal wall, causing urine or stool to flow from the high pressure side (urinary tract or bowel) to the low pressure side (vagina).