The Resident Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Liberia, Ratidzai Ndhlovu, has said that the provision of family planning services for women and girls offers the answer to reducing maternal and newborn deaths, including the prevention of obstetric fistula here.
Ms. Ndhlovu said access to family planning is an essential human right that delivers immeasurable rewards to women, families, communities and the nation at large.
According to a press release from the UNFPA, she spoke on Saturday, 23rd November in Phebe, Bong County at the graduation ceremony of sixteen fistula survivors from the Fistula Rehabilitation and Reintegration Center.
The UNFPA Resident Representative disclosed that the fistula has all but disappeared in countries where women experiencing complicated deliveries have access to timely emergency obstetric care.
She added: “The most effective way to prevent fistula is to ensure access to quality maternal health care services, including family planning, skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetric care. Skilled attendant at birth, including swift surgical intervention if obstructed labor occurs, can prevent a fistula.”
She noted that “prolonged obstructed labor puts a woman at risk for fistula and other serious injuries, including death.” Ms Ndhlovu warned that unless women with risk delivery complication receive prompt medical treatment – usually a Caesarean section – the lack of blood flow can cause soft tissues to die, leaving a fistula, or hole, in the bladder or bowel.
Using the occasion to reaffirm UNFPA’s commitment to the provision of family planning services as a strategy to end fistula and reduce maternal mortality in Liberia, she maintained that “because women with fistula endure enormous psychological and social trauma; empowering them to reclaim their place in society is a major goal of the UNFPA’s End Fistula Campaign.”
She lauded the fistula survivors for their resilience and urged them to share the information on how to prevent fistula or get treatment.
“To you my sisters and daughters; please do not keep this new found joy to yourself. While we celebrate your lives today, let us not forget that there are many more of our sisters and daughters who have fistula out there and they need information and the assurance that they too can be successful, respected members of their families and communities.”
“You are ambassadors and role models for those who have not gotten the courage and opportunities to seek help. You are great heroines of Liberia in the fight against fistula. You have all the reasons to be happy and proud;” Ms. Ndhlovu pointed out.
Also speaking at the program, Assistant Health Minister for Preventive Services Tolbert Nyenswah said the Government of Liberia remains committed to working with partners in ensuring that pregnant women have easy access to obstetric care services; thus reducing maternal deaths and preventing fistula.
Minister Nyenswah called for a multi-stakeholders approach in responding to maternal deaths and childbearing injuries in the country. He cited the ministries of Health, Public Works, Transport and Youth and Sports as critical in campaigns to promote and sustain reproductive health practices.
He argued that “We can have the best health facilities with the best healthcare providers, once there are no good roads connecting those centers with the communities; we have not done anything yet.”
The Liberia Fistula Project was launched in 2007 by the Liberian Government through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare with funding from UNFPA. Since its launch, the program has treated more than 1000 women and girls free of charge.
The project also runs a Fistula Rehabilitation and Reintegration Center into Phebe, Bong County to ensure that there is proper follow-up and development of vocational skills to assist patients easily reintegrate in the communities after treatment.