Che Glory is Cameroonian nurse/advocate with a deep passion on non communicable diseases such as mental and reproductive health for people in underprivileged communities. She has a wide experience on issues like access to health care, running a mobile clinic and home care assistance. She is the programs Coordinator of Home of Pearls Foundation.
Losing Life in Bringing a Life (The Untold story of Vaginal Fistula)
By Che Glory
Cameroon has had some major challenges over the years and with this comes poor access to health care. The evidence concerning this access problem stems largely on government`s inability to invest in health care sector, secondly many rural communities don’t have trained medical staff and equipment’s by this exacerbating an already complicated issue. There are two sides to the access problem. One is of the supply side, good quality, effective health care may not be offered. On the demand side people may not utilize services from which they could benefit. Women largely bear the brunt of this problem because of their inability to be provided good and affordable health care during child birth. This problem is very evident in child birth. In Cameroon It is estimated that each year more than 2000 women die during child birth or related issues and pregnancy complications and childbirth are among the leading causes of death and disability for these women.
To women who survive child birth more of them are left with a more complicated issue to deal with –Fistula .Fistula is an opening or hole created between two organs or an organ and the skin. Fistula formed at the wall of the vagina is called a Vaginal Fistula. This comes about by the forceful pushing of a fully developed baby through a birth canal that doesn’t fit its size. Vaginal fistula is an opening between the urinary tract and the vaginal. Rectovaginal fistula being a vaginal fistula that opens into the rectum. These fistulas are usually as a result of damages of some skin tissues which may last several months or years, Common causes of vaginal fistula;
– A tear at the premium during child birth;
– A hysterectomy done that linked to a vaginal tract fistula;
– Also be gotten after a radiation treatment of cancer; and
– An infected episiotomy after child birth.
Among the aforementioned causes, cultural practices tend to exacerbate an already complicated conditions, hence exposing these women to more danger .In a culture where a woman’s status and dignity is decided by her ability to provide a husband with multiple children, it can be a fate worse than death. Hence having children in precarious conditions without proper access to health care exposes them. Harmful traditional practice like child brides puts at risk these young girls to vaginal fistula .Girls as young as 7 in some cultures of Cameroon are given off to marriage .This is either as debt repayment or to cement / seal an already long relationship between two families. As a result during child birth because their pelvic bones are too small for a natural birth, it increases their risk of vaginal fistula.
Furtherance the political instability that has led to violence with so many cases of rape recorded tends to make bad situations worst for women as well as poor road infrastructures discourages them from visiting hospitals. More so without quality health care ,complications during pregnancy for these women endanger the lives of the mother and even the child. So through my partnerships with local NGOs like Home of Pearls Foundation we provide primary and secondary health care, and support to these women .Through the mobile clinics which we run, we have been able to travel to more than 10 remote villages to provide medical consultation to pregnant women who can be at risk and some cases severe cases are referred to Government hospitals.
Psychologically the effects of vaginal fistula on the women is usually overwhelming, they perpetually leak urine and sometimes feces added on this in most cases most rejected by their husbands and shunned by the village. “People think fistula patients are witches and just have bad luck, “with this “strange “or unknown illness.
My passion in working on this is the poor knowledge and research on vagina fistula and limited resources in aiding women with the illness. According to reports more women suffer from this and not even aware victims are left to cope by themselves. Working with them means the difference between life and death or lifelong suffering .Without proper knowledge most victims don’t know what vaginal fistula is or that it’s treatable with surgery. And even when they do they are far from any hospital and can’t even afford it. To most of these women to be cured from fistula is to regain their dignity and hope of having children again .For some who have been shunned by their communities and ostracized in their homes ,they hope that one day everything will be alright.
Raising awareness on this is major; enacting more stringent laws against practices like child brides is of utmost importance. Investing in health care systems where women don’t have to either lose their lives in bringing forth a life is a priority!!