US medics ready for fistula operations

At least 40 women suffering from obstetric fistula will be operated on by American uro-gynecologist specialists who arrived over the weekend at Kibagabaga District Hospital. Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Barbara A. Margolies, the Executive Director of International Organization for Women & Development Inc which sponsored the event, an exercise will be carried out to select who shall be the first to be operated on.
Dr. Patrick Bagambe receiving medical equipment from Barbara A Margolies yesterday (Photo; T. Kisambira)
Dr. Patrick Bagambe receiving medical equipment from Barbara A Margolies yesterday (Photo; T. Kisambira)

At least 40 women suffering from obstetric fistula will be operated on by American uro-gynecologist specialists who arrived over the weekend at Kibagabaga District Hospital.

Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Barbara A. Margolies, the Executive Director of International Organization for Women & Development Inc which sponsored the event, an exercise will be carried out to select who shall be the first to be operated on.

From the time they announced the free service to save women from what has been identified as the most devastating of all childbirth injuries, the hospital expects the number to rise to about 100 women seeking the operation.

“It is humiliating; it makes women become a social disgrace, socially isolated. Most of the women are also stigmatized by the community instead of being assisted and are in some cases rejected by their husbands,” Margolies said.

Obstetric fistula is a severe medical condition in which a fistula (hole) develops between either the rectum and vagina (rectovaginal fistula), or between the bladder and vagina (vesicovaginal fistula) after severe or failed childbirth or prolonged labour when adequate medical care is not available

An obstetric fistula develops when blood supply to the tissues of the vagina and the bladder or rectum is cut off during prolonged obstructed labour. The tissues die and a hole forms through which urine or faeces pass uncontrollably

There are two primary causes of fistula in women in developing countries childbirth, causing obstetric fistula and sexual violence, causing traumatic fistula.

Margolies said that despite the occurrence and seriousness of obstetric fistula among women, not many cases are reported due to stigma or thinking it cannot be treated.
She however hastily added that there are some fistulas that cannot be cured due to long periods without treatment.

According to the official website of The Fistula Foundation, It is estimated that more than two million women live with fistula following its eradication in western countries at the end of the 19th century when caesarean section became widely available.

It is however continuing to plague women in developing countries estimated at 100,000 new fistula cases each year and the international capacity to treat fistula remains at only 6,500 per year.

According to Patrick Bagambe, the Director of Kibagabaga Hospital, support of the specialized doctors from USA has been a big boost to the hospital in the area of public health.

Bagambe said that the team which was in the same hospital in April, have also brought medical equipment in line with fistula operation, saving women in labour and newborns worth Rwf 1.18bn which will be donated to the hospital after the operations.

Fistula in Rwanda is currently treated at three public hospitals: the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), Ruhengeri Hospital, in Northern Province and Kanombe Hospital in Kicukiro district.

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