Malawi’s Banda says stop stigmatising women with fitsula

Malawi President Joyce Banda on Thursday called upon people in the country to stop discriminating against women with fistula.

President Banda made the call in Lilongwe when she opened a Fistula Care Centre at Bwaila District Hospital run by the Freedom for Fistula Foundation (FFFF).

“I am aware that one of the most pressing challenges women who have fistula problem face is social integration and acceptance by the society,” she said.

President Banda cheering a patient.-Photo by Amanda Chiliro/Nyasa Times

“It is sad to see such women often alienated from their families and community to the extent that they find it difficult to return to their homes even after being assisted.I wish to appeal for an end to stigma and discrimination against women with fistula,” the President said.

Fistula is a condition whereby a woman develops an abnormal opening between a woman’s bladder and birth canal and/or rectum through which urine and/ or faeces continually leak due to child bearing.

Safemotherhood

President Banda said the fact that obstetric fistula still occurred in Malawi meant that the country had not yet fully achieved its vision for safe motherhood, though it had come a long way in reducing maternal and neonatal deaths.

It is for this reason she appealed to all Malawians to work together in eliminating the fistula problem to have a bright safe motherhood future for every woman.

Banda said the opening of the Fistula Centre gave hope to the country towards attainment of safe motherhood. She said the facility would serve the most vulnerable and marginalized women in society that had the condition.

The president thanked the FFFF for establishing the centre which she said would help to prevent fistula as well as treat women who had the condition.

Banda asked women who had had their fistula repaired to deliver at a health centre if they got pregnant again for them to receive the required attention to prevent the condition from recurring.

Healing

President Banda said “physical healing is only the beginning, psychological healing is the final step.”

She added that “micro finance empowerment of women who have recovered from fistula will help them psychologically reintegrate into the society where they withdrew from after developing fistula.”

The President commended spouses of women who are receiving treatment at the newly launched health centre for not abandoning the women due to their medical condition, saying that the men expressed true love.

“Let us all support women with fistula. I would like to applaud spouses of women who are receiving treatment at the centre for the support they are giving to the women. All the women at the hospital said their men are still with them and are very supportive,” the Malawi leader advised.

She said every Malawian has a role to play in eliminating fistula which occurs when there is obstruction during birth commonly in teenage pregnancies and birth complications which occur when women deliver at Traditional Birth Attendants.

“The best way to solve the fistula problem in Malawi is by eliminating the risk factor. Let us avoid teen pregnancies by sending our girls to school to delay birth debut. Let our women give birth at health clinics. Traditional Birth Attendants, you have been very supportive of safe motherhood. I ask you to continue the good work by referring all deliveries to hospitals,” said Banda.

Statistics

In her remarks, Director for FFFF, Dr Ann Gloag said there were more than 2 million women with fistula in Africa. More than 2,000 new cases are reported in Malawi every year.

She disclosed that the foundation had since managed to repair 260 women from the condition since the centre started operating in 2008 and readmitted to secondary school two students who had a similar problem after they became pregnant while at school.

Even though the condition is repairable, it is reported that 70 per cent of the women who have the condition will never have children again after repair.

FFFF is a Scottish charity whose vision is to have all women in Africa to have access to health care during pregnancy and child birth and help them eradicate obstetric fistula.

The Foundation has centres in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kenya and Malawi.

Apart from repairing women with the condition, FFFF will also raise awareness on the condition as well as educate health care providers at all levels on the care of women with obstetric fistula among others.

Dr Anne Cloag.-Photo by Amanda Chiliro/Nyasa Times

Patients in the new ward.-Photo by Amanda Chiliro/Nyasa Times

President Banda with Dr. Gloag opening the new ward.-Photo by Amanda Chiliro/Nyasa Times

She has had fistula for since 1976.-Photo by Amanda Chiliro/Nyasa Times

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