The Fistula Foundation has advised women suffering from fistula to ignore myths and misconceptions surrounding the condition and seek medical intervention.
Ms Habiba Mohamed, the foundation’s Programme Manager in Africa and Asia, termed retrogressive cultural beliefs and outright lies about the condition as the major obstacles in the fight against the malady.
She said most women fail to report fistula cases for fear of being stigmatized because of the superstitions associated with the condition, but noted that the malady is caused by natural causes and that it is treatable.
Mohamed, who was speaking in Malindi town during celebrations to mark this year’s International Day to end Fistula, said that about 3,000 women seek fistula treatment annually in Kenya, but added that the figure could be higher as most people believe the condition is caused by witchcraft.
She said about between one million and two million fistula cases are reported in hospitals worldwide every year, noting that the projected tallies could be more.
“The figures that we have range from one million to two million worldwide fistula cases are reported in the hospital annually. The number could be higher because some don’t go to hospital to seek medication,” she said.
She said there was need for awareness creation on the condition at the grassroots to help people understand the disease so that those affected can seek medical attention.
Mohamed however said her organizations had made milestones in the fight against fistula, noting that some 11,496 patients have undergone treatment in various hospitals that the organization has partnered with within the country since the organization’s inception.
She lauded county governments for allowing their community health workers to be trained on the condition, adding that the health workers had in turn sensitized communities and helped patients in the field.
Victoria Heri from Msabaha, who is a fistula survivor, said that the treatment journey has been long but noted that she had finally been healed.
“It was in 2016 when I discovered the problem. I started medication in 2020, it did not respond well to medication until this year 2023 when I was completely healed,” she said.
She thanked her family for supporting her during the difficult period and urged other families to emulate hers by not stigmatizing fistula patients, but instead help them seek medication.
“I call upon my fellow women not to hide nor believe in falsehoods about the condition, but instead come out and be assisted so that they can start treatment,” said Miss Victoria.
Grace Kitsao Baya from Langobaya, another fistula survivor, said that she had complications during her first child delivery at home in 2013.
She said that she has lived with the condition until 2021 because she had no idea about the case until she sought medication that led to her healing.
Mwita Jotham, whose wife has also been a fistula sufferer said that her spouse’s condition began after they were involved in an accident when she was expectant and got hospitalized for three months.
He opened up on how the journey has been challenging, but celebrated her wife for being a champion who fought hard on her way to recovery.
Jotham also acknowledged the support he got from Wadadia organization, one of the partners of the Fistula Foundation.
By Lucy Karanja and Emmanuel Masha