The Ivorian government, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), hosted the Conference “South-South and Triangular Partnership for the Elimination of Obstetric Fistula by 2030” on Tuesday in Cote d’Ivoire.
Obsteric fistula is a medical condition in which a hole develops in the birth canal as a result of childbirth. Many fistula victims suffer in silence, as a result of the stigma associated with the medial condition. The First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire urged patients to break the silence and take up arms to fight off the disease.
“I would now like to address especially my sisters and daughters suffering from this disease. I would like to tell you that you are not alone. The treatments and care made available to you by the government and its partners are effective and free. I encourage you to go to health centers and hospitals to be treated and thus regain a normal life,” said Dominique Ouattara.
A coalition of donors is working to give the affected women a new life. Their goal is to enforce the United Nations and ECOWAS resolutions as well as the Abidjan Declaration. It is coordinated by Belgium.
“The Belgian governmental cooperation implemented by our development agency Abell, which will soon be established in Côte d’Ivoire under European funding, is underway and focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights. In many countries of the region. Ladies and Gentlemen Excellencies Belgium welcomes the holding of this high-level dialogue and we would like to congratulate Côte d’Ivoire for the initiative and the welcome given to the exchange of regional experiences in view of our mutual commitments. I am pleased to announce that Belgium has accepted the role of coordinator of the donor coalition initiated by UNESCO in Côte d’Ivoire. In order to join efforts to create a platform for the exchange of experiences and good practices for the eradication of obstetric fistula” expressed the chargé d’affaire from Belgium.
The conference in Abidjan was preceded by a surgical mission coordinated by Professor Magueye Gueye, with the participation of surgeons from West and Central African countries. 180 complex cases of fistulas were operated on, and national capacities were strengthened.
In Côte d’Ivoire, more than 16 women die every day from complications related to childbirth, pregnancy, or in the 42 days following childbirth. 80% of these deaths are due to direct obstetrical causes.
Studies indicate that most cases of obstetric fistulae are due to poverty, affecting very poor, young illiterates, rural women and girls. The victims endure prolonged labor for days, mostly attended to by traditional birth attendants or unskilled family members. The babies usually die, and the women are left with chronic incontinence.
The women affected are often abandoned by the husband, family, and ostracized by their community. Moreover, the prospect of work and family life greatly diminished. Although the surgical repair is uncomplicated, inexpensive, and mends the life of thousands of women, the real need is to avoid the occurrence of obstetric fistula in the first place, which makes obstetric fistula a public health issue rather than a surgical issue.
Meanwhile, the curative care services including education for sufferers is also very important and cannot be ignored.