By Rachel Gonani -Mana
Freedom From Fistula Foundation (FFF), an organisation focusing on restoring hope and dignity for fistula patients in the country through physical repairs, has challenged local media to step up efforts in closing information gaps around fistula.
Freedom From Fistula Foundation Coordinator, Margaret Moyo made the call in Lilongwe on Friday during a day-long media orientation on fistula.
Moyo said lack of knowledge, especially in rural areas where fistula cases are mostly found, threatens efforts to counter the same.
According to Moyo, the foundation handles approximately 350 fistula cases annually. She believes that the media has a role to inform and educate communities on health issues affecting them.
“Over 80 percent of fistula patients are in remote areas hence need for practical approaches to addressing the problem. If these people continue to stay in the dark, prevention will be a challenge and, worse still, they will not know where to get help in case they develop the problem,” she said.
She, therefore, implored on journalists to use different media to reach the rural masses with informative content on fistula.
According to FFF, a huge part of the project’s funding comes from the Rotary Club which, through its exposure, connects with other organisations and corporate partners, lobbying for financial assistance.
In his remarks, Rotary Club of Lilongwe immediate past President, Vincent Sikelo said the club first intervened on fistula projects in 2014 but have continued to do so owing to the magnitude of the problem.
“Our interest is to serve and save our communities but with such worrying figures, it is clear Rotary Club cannot singlehandedly touch on all areas regarding fistula, the more reason we are partnering with other organisations and corporate partners to support Bwaila Fistula Centre with more money and equipment,” he said, extending a plea to the media to further commit to disseminating information on the condition.
FFF reports that repairing a single fistula patient requires approximately K500,000, an indication that dealing with the problem is expensive.
All patient expenses, including transportation and food, are settled by the institution to help patients regardless of their social economic status.
On progress made, the foundation expressed worry with the stagnation of figures, saying repairing over 300 fistula patients every year indicates prevention is a problem as a result of lack of information and misinformation.
Sophilet Mbewe, a fistula survivor from Traditional Authority (TA) Mkanda in Mchinji hailed the Foundation for the treatment accessed at Bwaila Fistula Centre, saying for the ten years she had suffered from fistula, her life was a nightmare.
“The community isolated me because of the foul smell I was producing. I lost my self-esteem and could not participate in anything developmental. The suffering was unimaginable. Back then I did not know it was fistula until I reached Bwaila,” she said.
Mbewe further urged fistula patients to seek healthcare, discouraging them from believing in myths and misconceptions.
Obstetric fistula, an abnormal opening between the genital tract and urinary tract or rectum mostly caused by prolonged obstructed labour, is the most common form of fistulas.
Currently, Bwaila Fistula Centre is the only establishment in the country offering fistula repairs through the Freedom From Fistula Foundation through two experts. Another centre was constructed in Mangochi but is yet to start operations.