September 20, 2010 – The African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF) has called on the government to make treatment of fistula, a medical condition affecting women, free.
Project Manager, Reproductive Health Dr Khisa Wakasiaka told Capital News that treatment of fistula, a condition caused by obstructed labour during childbirth should be made accessible like it is with HIV/AIDS and malaria.
Dr Wakasiaka said the problem that was affecting thousands of women in the country could be prevented if the government made maternity services free in all public hospitals.
“This will make it easy to detect obstructed labour and perform emergency caesarean section in time to stop developing fistula,” he said.
“The biggest challenge we face is the numbers that we have- those waiting are over 30,000 and there are new ones that are coming. We have very few surgeons and AMREF probably is the biggest organisation at the moment handling this in the whole of East Africa and you can imagine in Kenya alone we have about five surgeons only who are in active fistula care,” the Fistula specialist added.
He said that AMREF was currently conducting free medical camps for women suffering from fistula in various parts of the country and said Western and Rift Valley regions had the highest number of fistula patients.
“Initially we used to think that it was North Eastern and Eastern province where (Female Genital Mutilation is practiced} but in the North Eastern province what we are mainly getting is the refugees who have been streaming in from Somalia and through GTZ they are brought to Nairobi where we assist them,” he explained.
“In Eastern the numbers are dwindling because there was much concentration on that side and safe motherhood activities have improved,” he added.
Dr Wakasiaka said the biggest problem was that majority of the women were not aware that there was a cure for the condition and so suffer for even 40 years in silence.
“During the camps, this operation is free and what AMREF does is that we reimburse the hospital, for each operation up to about $150. At the same time we go with our own supplies. At Kenyatta we give a special preference because the service is a little bit more expensive than the district hospitals so for every patient at Kenyatta National Hospital, AMREF pays Sh15, 000,” he said.
He said there was now need to promote early treatment for fistula patients and said that since January they had operated on 300 fistula patients across the country.
“The main camp where we operate many patients is Kenyatta National Hospital where we have an annual camp usually in the month of June.”
He said that for this year there were 300 women who turned up for the reconstructive surgery but only managed to attend to 100 of them.
“This is because of the capacity. The hospital has limited space both in theatre and the wards so you cannot just operate everybody,” he explained.
Dr Wakasiaka however said that not all patients who seek treatment required an operation.
“They could be leaking urine, leaking stool but may not be one that benefits from surgery and so whenever they come up we have to do a screening then select those that would benefit from an operation,” he said.