Liberia: Health Ministry, UNFPA Begin New Fistula Campaign

Liberia’s Minister of Health, Dr. Williamina Jallah speaks at the launch of the new Fistula campaign

Phebe, Suakoko District – The Government of Liberia Thursday, December 19, launched a new campaign to tackle obstetric fistula in women with support from the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA.

This campaign provides measures for expected levels of fistula care through different tiers of health services.

A distinct role has been proposed for community prevention, care and referral of fistula patients.

Obstetric fistula is one of the most tragic childbirth injuries confronting women in Liberia.

It is caused by untreated obstructed and prolonged labour which creates a hole between the birth canal and bladder or rectum, leaving women to leak urine, faeces, or both. It often leads to chronic medical problem, depression, social isolation and deepening poverty.

UNFPA has been working with the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health to improve the treatment and rehabilitation services for obstetric fistula teams across Liberia at different hospitals.

Liberia’s Minister of Health Williamina Jallah inaugurated the campaign and said obstetric fistula is one of the “most concerning” women’s health issues.

“With our continuous progress in women and children’s health, the prevalence of fistula cases has declined in Liberia. However, there are still more women living in Liberia with fistula,” she said.

Dr. Jallah said the government is committed to ending obstetric fistula along with most sicknesses affecting women and children.

Fistula survivors at Phebe Hospital

Making remarks also, UNFPA’s Country Representative in Liberia, Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, said the presence of fistula reflects broader health inequities and health-care system constraints.

Dr. Ndyanabangi said ending fistula is to prevent it from happening. He added that the prevention of fistula is only possible when women have access to quality maternal health care services, including family planning, skilled attendance at the birth of their babies and emergency obstetric care in a timely manner.

He added: “Ending fistula can be a reality. It is possible. We can end fistula by joining our collective efforts to stop unnecessarily suffering women, families and communities, to stop the isolation and suffering caused by extreme pain and to stop the humiliation of this dehumanizing condition.”

Also speaking, the medical director of Phebe Hospital, Dr. Jefferson Sibley, said the current fistula campaign brings Liberia to a new insight into the fistula disease burden.

With funding from UNFPA, Dr. Sibley said they have mobilized and currently have 40 survivals admitted at Phebe Hospital with different categories of obstetric and other related conditions.

Other speakers at the Thursday session reiterated their strong commitment to ensuring zero prevalence of obstetric fistula in Liberia and that no fistula survival is left behind.