Tuesday May 27 2014

Uganda needs 100 years to clear fistula backlog - minister

Ms. Roselidah Ondeka, the Senior National Gender Coordinator for UNPFA (R) and

Ms. Roselidah Ondeka, the Senior National Gender Coordinator for UNPFA (R) and Dr Elioda Tumwesigye in Masaka last week. Photo by Martins E. Ssekweyama 

By Sandra Janet Birungi

MASAKA- The State Minister for Health in charge of General Duties, Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, has raised concern about the increasing cases of fistula.

Speaking during the commemoration ceremony of the International Fistula Day in Masaka District last week, Dr Tumwesigye said it might take Uganda 100 years to clear the backlog of untreated fistula patients.

“There is an estimated backlog of 200,000 fistula patients. Each patient needs $400, which is approximately Shs1m to undergo the corrective surgery. This amounts to Shs800b, which means that Uganda may take close to 100 years to clear this backlog,” he explained.
According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Senior Gender Based Violence Coordinator Roselidah Ondeko, about 1,500 women get fistula repairs annually despite having 1,900 new cases every year.

Dr Peter Mukasa, a fistula specialist at the Ministry of Health, explained that there are several types of fistula such as iatrogenic fistula caused by health workers through accidentally creating a hole between the bladder/rectum and the vagina; traumatic fistula which usually occurs as a result of sexual violence and obstetric fistula which is caused by severe or failed child birth when adequate medical care is not available. The most common in Uganda, however, is obstetric fistula.

Ms Ondeko cited stigmatization of fistula patients by society as one of the reasons most patients do not seek medical help which in turn limits knowledge on the actual number of people living with the condition.
Despite the fear, fistula patients can give birth again after surgery. Teenage pregnancy was cited as one of the most common causes of fistula.

Dr Elioda asked UNFPA to provide funds to clear the backlog of untreated patients in Uganda.