By Treezer Michelle Atieno
Research indicates that Obstetric Fistula is one of the most neglected issues in women’s health. Despite decades of work on safe motherhood, maternal fatalities, and complications such as fistula still occur.
3000 cases of fistula are reported each year in Kenya. Only a small percentage, 7.5%, of these fistula cases receive treatment. Proctologists believe that there is likely to be a significant underestimation of the problem. These numbers are based only on the women who have access to health facilities.
Kakamega County is one county with high fistula cases. According to Women and Development Against Distress in Africa (WADADIA), these cases are because of poverty, poor access to maternal health services and the absence of Emergency Obstetric Care services in rural health facilities.
Fistula is a medical condition rooted in social and economic determinants, raising questions on quality health care within facilities in Kakamega and accessibility to these facilities, as one of the major causes of fistula is prolonged labor.
Fistula, as documented by the Fistula Foundation, exposes women to isolation, skin infections and even kidney disorders. It also affects the people close to these women, including children, relatives and their spouses.
WADADIA, in partnership with the Fistula Foundation, has conducted fistula-related training and free corrective surgeries in Kakamega since 2018.
The government has also put forth efforts to eliminate obstetric fistula. In 2006, the Kenya National Obstetric Fistula Training Curriculum for Health Care Workers was introduced, with funding from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). It was founded to train health service providers on effective management of obstetric fistula.
Currently, there are various centers in Kenya where one can access fistula services. They include Cherangany Nursing Home in Kitale, WADADIA in the regions of Kakamega, West Pokot, Mt. Elgon and Siaya, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu, Gynocare Fistula Centre in Eldoret and Kenyatta National Hospital.
Despite these efforts to manage and treat fistula in Kenya and counties like Kakamega, the devastating consequences of obstetric fistula persist. Fistula is yet to receive its fair share of resources and attention as a priority maternal health agenda. It is high time the government invested more in eradicating fistula by improving maternal health care in rural and urban areas and strengthening emergency obstetric maternal care systems in the country.