Zombo leaders decry rising fistula cases

Patients wait in a ward prio to undergo obstetric fistula repair surgery at the Mulago Hospital in Kampala on October 31, 2014. Millions of women in developing countries suffer from the obstetric fistula, a hole in the vagina or rectum caused by prolonged labour without treatment which means they leak urine uncontrollably, and also endure the social stigma arising as a result of it. PHOTO/ISAAC KASAMANI VIA GETTY IMAGES

What you need to know:

  • Data from UNFPA, estimates that 75,000 Ugandan women are living with fistula and 1900-2000 new cases of fistula added every year, with Zombo District registering on average, 55 cases annually.

Authorities in Zombo District have raised concern over the increase in Fistula cases in the district which they blamed on teenage pregnancies.

Fistula is an abnormal opening between a woman’s genital tract and her urinary tract or rectum caused by protracted and obstructed labour during child birth. 

In an interview with Monitor last week, Mr Jinaro Onegiu, the Athuma Sub-county chairperson, said:

“The problem of fistula has become a big one in our district and this is due to the high rate of teenage pregnancies here. During the Covid-19-induced lockdown, we had over 7,000 cases of teenage pregnancies.”

Mr Onegiu added that the lack of proper healthcare services in the different sub-counties has worsened the issue. 

“In my sub-county, I don’t have any health facility. All we have are Village Health Teams (VHTs), no health centre IIs, IIIs,” he said.

Dr Emintone Odong, a fistula surgeon in district, said:
“Teenage pregnancy is the biggest cause of fistula in Uganda. We only have Warr Health Centre IV, the only government facility that treats fistula mothers free of charge.”

She added: “…Most women delay to go for treatment due to ignorance since some people think that it has no treatment. We thank UNFPA for giving us surgical equipment, they have really helped us take care of these women.”

Ms Sharon Muber, a victim of Fistula, said her husband chased her away because she kept urinating on herself after the second birth.

Another victim, Ms Faiza Tholith, 17, said: “I got pregnant at 14 years because I was not going to school, I was just at home, and I conceived. I wasn’t married, I just got pregnant when I was still staying with my parents, during childbirth. I failed to push because the passage was small.”

She added: “The doctor pulled out the baby using a machine and from that time, I lost control of my urine.” 

Hopeful ... Donation

During the commemoration of the Fistula Day celebrations in Zombo last Friday, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will donate 70 fistula surgical kits, 118 accessory fistula kits, and five fistula operating tables worth $108,839 (Shs396m).

Ms Mary Otieno, the UNFPA country representative, said fistula brings shame and loss of dignity in women which is why they are doing everything possible to treat those with it.

Data from UNFPA, estimates that 75,000 women are living with fistula and 1900-2000 new cases of fistula added every year, with Zombo District registering on average, 55 cases annually.