27 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Woman Initiates Awareness Drive

A local woman has taken it upon herself to create awareness on people who cannot pass out stool or urine normally.

The people with such a condition can only pass these out through an opening on the stomach. Ms Lizzie Moyo also seeks to mobilise resources to assist people with the same condition. The woman, who is living with ostomy, said people with this condition, face a number of challenges in both the health sector and community.

An ostomy refers to the surgically created opening of the large and small intestines where a portion of the colon or the rectum is removed. The remaining part is brought to the abdominal wall. The condition could be temporary when the lower portion of the colon is allowed to heal or permanent when the person has lost part of the colon, particularly the rectum. In this case, the end of the remaining colon is brought out to the abdominal wall to form a stoma. A stoma is the actual end of the ureter, small or large bowel that can be seen protruding through the abdominal wall.

The condition is caused by pregnancy complications, cancers of the colon or the rectum.

Ms Moyo said there was lack of stoma care appliances such that patients living with the condition use alternatives such as plastic bags, rags or cotton wool, exposing patients to infections.

"Before we knew that there are appliances tailor made for this condition, I used to wrap around plastic bags around my waist so that when the waste comes out it gets into the plastic. I did not know that there are ostomy care appliances ranging from bags, powders, paste which can be used when you are living with ostomy," she said.

Ms Moyo said the costs of the appliances were beyond the reach of ordinary Zimbabweans.

The appliances cost from US$10 to US$40 while they need to be regularly replaced. For example an ostomy bag, which costs US$10 can be used just for a day.

"People with this condition do not feel like going to the toilet, it just happens without them knowing so the bag should be fitted throughout the day and disposed of after a day," she said.

Ms Moyo said there are other bags which could be used for up to two weeks.

These special bags have a drainage tap to empty it when full.

She said there was no way Zimbabweans with this condition could get professional information and trained personnel to deal with the condition.

Some were even stigmatised by family and friends because of their condition especially those who do not use proper ostomy appliances. The odour might make some people uncomfortable being around people with the condition. She has since partnered with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to assist people living with the condition.

"Before and after my operation, I realised a gap in the Zimbabwean Ileostomy and Colostomy care system. Medical health care support services and appliances I required were either unavailable or expensive.

"Having gone through all these difficulties and experiences my family and I decided to assist other people with the same condition by creating awareness and sourcing for resources for the care and treatment of the condition," she said.

She has since formed her organisation operating under the name Ileostomy and Colostomy Zimbabwe Trust.

Since its inception in 2010, the organisation has assisted 570 patients with free appliances.

The organisation also trains the people in caring for the stoma so that it does not get infections and counselling.

The organisation's assistant co-ordinator, Ms Linda Moyo, said patients were referred to them by hospitals after undergoing stoma operations.

She said they were working in partnership with international organisations giving them appliances for free distribution.

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