24 February 2014

Liberia: Teenage Pregnancy Causes of Fistula - UNFPA Country Director

The head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Liberia Ms. Ratidzai Ndhlovu has disclosed that the main cause of fistula among women and girls in Liberia is teenage pregnancy.

She said the organization wants to broaden its fistula program, creating a venue for methods that are aimed at prevention of the disease.

"Child marriage; it is because of these issues that we end up with a fistula, because they are too young to be pregnant," said Ms. Ndhlovu.

"We really want to integrate into the Fistula program, preventive methods, we want to make an integrated program where Fistula will be part of it, but that we concentrate on adolescent pregnancy, because that is where the whole problem comes from."

She told journalists at a news conference in Monrovia when she paid host to Zonta an international group supporting women suffering from fistula that by integrating family planning into the program, it will lessen the burden on the only doctor performing the surgery in Liberia.

"At this point, I want to turn to Dr. Mulbah and say, I don't know how to thank you. You work from the heart, I always say and it is so true and I want to thank you for your commitment to your work, your dedication, you don't work for remuneration, you work for the satisfaction of saving lives and giving dignity to these girls and women," she said at the weekend.

Speaking at the conference, Zonta's Vice President Ms. Sonja Honig Schough, said she is impressed with the level of care given fistula patients in Liberia. She said the level of attention given to women with the disease in Liberia is remarkable.

"I have had a wonderful experience. I have had the possibility to see the three centers of excellence for fistula care," she said.

"I have also met several survivors; I would say many survivors more than I had expected to see."

This is a very important thing, that I can come here in person that I can see the constraints that are here in this country; that I can understand the problem."

Ms. School who was visiting Liberia for the first time said her organization Zonta International is an international organization with a membership of about thirty thousand, most of whom are women, mainly supporting the cause of women worldwide.

"It is all these members that are donating to the fistula project as most of them are women, it is very easy to understand these problems, even if we don't have them in Europe or in the U.S. to a very big extent," she said.

Excited over the level of work she was able to see around the country, the Zonta vice President said she has no doubt convinced that the organization's funding is being put to the right use and she pledged more support to the fight against fistula.

"I saw the centers of excellence and I saw the rehabilitation center and I saw the enthusiasm and the professionalism of all the staff involved," she said.

"They showed me the hospital; so, I'm very pleased with this visit. I have seen more than I've expected. It has been a very organized trip with programs all the time, which I really like."

UNFPA Liberia Representative thanked Zonta International for the level of support given to the UN organization to fight fistula worldwide.

"I must say, I'm so impressed that Sonia, you were ready to go out into the fields and go up and down the rugged roads, and be able to see for yourself what is on the ground," she said.

Continued Ndhlovu: "You cannot measure the success of any program by only reading the document. You have to go out and talk to the survivors; talk to them, listen to their stories, see the changes in their lives. I want to say a big thank you to Zonta International for the support you have been giving to this program."

"Your support has touched the lives of many women and girls in this country and we appreciate it and I'm sure that the government of Liberia appreciates this support."

Zonta International is an international service organization with the mission of advancing the status of women.

The first Zonta Club was founded in Buffalo, New York in 1919 by a group of business women and was organized along the lines of the Rotary Club, with one woman from each business classification admitted to the local club and all members required to give 60% of their time to the work under which they are classified.

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