Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

Rwanda: Fistula Surgery At Kibagabaga Gives Relief to Women

More than 35 women suffering from obstetric fistula will receive free surgery thanks to a team of US medics in collaboration with Rwandan colleagues at Kibagabaga hospital.

The American team consists of 30 medical professionals from the International Organization for Women and Development, Inc. (IOWD), a US-based non-profit organization.

The fistula surgeries will take place between February 2 and 14.

According to Dr Christian Ntizimira, the director of Kibagabaga hospital, the ministry of health provides everything for the patients so that they can get free treatment. The US medics also come with all equipment.

As of Wednesday, 13 women had far undergone surgery while 120 had been examined. About 220 women came to the hospital for treatment. After the surgery, the women still need follow up. "It really gets healed when a patient goes regularly for treatment," Ntizimira said, adding that all complications can be well fixed within six weeks.

The collaboration between Minisante and IOWD ensures free fistula surgery three times per year, in February, April and October, since 2006. Normally, the operation and follow-up treatment would cost between Frw 200,000 and 300,000.

Obstetric fistula consists of a hole in the birth canal usually caused by prolonged obstructed labor that leaves the woman suffering from a range of health problems which include chronic incontinence. According to medics, most of the cases can aggravate when mothers give birth at their home with no medical support to take care of them.

The chronic incontinence often has severe psychosocial and socioeconomic consequences that are brought on by social segregation - which in many cases results in isolation, feelings of shame and despair.

Speciose Uzamukunda, a resident of Gatsibo district, is one of them women who got operated last Tuesday. She developed the condition in 2000 while giving birth, and has suffered discrimination since then. "People used to murmur everywhere I passed because of the bad smell, and no one could stay near me," Uzamukunda said. "But I now hope to regain my self-esteem thanks to this initiative."

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