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Kajiado women get free fistula surgery

Over 100 women suffering from obstetric fistula in Kajiado County have benefitted from a free fistula medical camp.

The women, a majority of whom have been suffering from the condition for years, were screened and treated with 29 booked for corrective surgeries.

So far 20 surgeries have been conducted restoring confidence and dignity to the women.

One of the beneficiaries, Francisca Chepng’eno, has lived with fistula for the last 20 years.  She revealed that she developed the condition after the birth of her third child in 2002.

Chepng’eno, a resident of Bomet County, travelled all the way to Kajiado County when she heard about the free fistula medical camp.

She said she has suffered in silence and isolation for years and was forced to use rags to avoid soiling herself as she cannot afford diapers and pads.

Chepng’eno says she has faced so much stigma from the community as many people did not understand her condition.

“Fistula has made my life so difficult, going to the market, church or even the river to fetch water has been hard as I meet people who gossip openly about me saying that I smell and they avoid me. This really lowered my confidence and self -esteem,” she said.

She added that she was glad that she had finally received surgery and she would no longer have to hide and live in shame.

Another beneficiary Jessica Heri, 33, says she has suffered from Fistula since 2015 when she gave birth to her second child.

The condition made her isolate herself from the community for fear of being ridiculed and ostracised.

She noted that she was forced to wear adult diapers which are very expensive and avoided eating or drinking when out in public.

“It has been hard living with fistula. I cannot go out in public freely as I fear soiling my clothes. If I really have to go somewhere I do not eat any food and I am forced to wear adult diapers as I cannot control passing out urine or stool,” she said.

Heri revealed that she has never sought treatment for the condition as she cannot afford the cost of surgery, but when she heard about the free fistula medical camp being offered at the Referral Hospital, she immediately travelled to the hospital to ensure that she benefitted.

The mother of two, could not hide her joy after undergoing corrective surgery adding that she would now freely interact with other people without fear or shame.

“I am so happy I have received fistula treatment. I cannot wait to start going to the market and church and mixing with other people in the village without any fear of soiling my clothes.” She said.

Obstetric fistula is a hole between the birth canal and rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labour, leaving a woman incontinent of urine or faeces or both.

It can also occur as a result of Female Genital Mutilation, trauma from rape and complications during surgery, tumors of the cervix and exposure to radiation.

According to Dr Meshack Ndirangu Wanjuki, AMREF Health Africa, Country Director, fistula is a treatable and curable condition yet many women continue to suffer in silence.

He said the women undergo a lot of stigma and ostracisation from the society robbing them of their dignity.

Dr Wanjuki urged all women suffering from leaking urine or faeces to seek medical help adding that they no longer have to suffer.

“Obstetric fistula is preventable and, in most cases, can be repaired surgically. It is caused as a result of birth complications, Female Genital Mutilation and sexual assault. Women who give birth at home may likely develop fistula due to lack of proper obstetric care. Teenage pregnancies also pre-disposes the girls to fistula as their bodies are not fully developed,” he said.

The free fistula medical camp that kicked off on April 21-April 29 at the Kajiado County Referral Hospital was organized by the County Government in conjunction with AMREF, Beyond Zero Campaign, UNFPA, Flying Doctors Society of Africa, Royal Media Services and M-Pesa Foundation.

Kajiado Governor’s spouse Edna Lenku, who visited the beneficiaries of the fistula surgeries, attributed the fistula prevalence in the County to teenage pregnancies, untimely access to obstetric care and harmful cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation.

She called on women suffering from the condition to come out and seek treatment at the referral hospital free of charge.

Mrs Lenku added that eradicating fistula was possible with proper investment in reproductive healthcare.

Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that over two million women are living with obstetric Fistula in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

In Kenya, it is estimated that there are 3,000 new fistula cases in Kenya each year, and only 7.5 per cent of these cases are able to access medical care.

The average cost of reconstructive surgery to correct obstetric fistula in a public hospital is Sh. 60,000 which is unaffordable to many.

By Rop Janet

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