The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, has expressed worry over the alarming statistics and rising burden of obstetrics fistula among Nigerian Women, decrying that there is a prevalence of 3.2 per 1000 birth with an estimated 13,000 new cases occurring annually.
Tallen stated this at the weekend during the joint ministerial press briefing on the international day to end Obstetric Fistula/VVF commemorated March 23 annually, at the Ministry’s headquarters in Abuja, saying the situation is ‘worrisome and unacceptable’.
She noted that over 5million women and girls were estimated to be living with unrepaired vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF) in Africa and some part of Asian countries, regretting that this has remained one of the devastating maternal morbidity afflicting about one million women in Nigeria due to the existence of socio-cultural beliefs/practices, socio-economic state and poor health facilities.
“In Nigeria, prevalence of Obstetric Fistula is 3.2 per 1000 birth and it was estimated that about 13,000 new cases occur annually, suggesting that the backlog of unrepaid case may take about 83 years to clear at the present rate of repair.
“Annually, an additional 50,000 to 100,000 new cases occur in the country. This alarming statistics and rising burden of Obstetric Fistula is worrisome and unacceptable,” she said.
“As you may be aware, many girls aged 11-15 in Nigeria become mothers either after early marriage to older men or through accidental pregnancy as a result of sexual intercourses with peers.Their small pelvic sizes cause most of these young girls to experience obstructed labour.
“Unskilled birth attendants simply cut through the vagina to create passage for the the baby which results in vesico vagina fistula, the lickage of urine and feaces through the vagina, causing women to become outcast by society. There are hundreds of thousands of such cases accros the country,” she decried.
The Minister therefore called on all stakeholders including religious bodies to lessen their influence on the reproductive health decision making of women, urging all to encourage and guide pregnant women to seek skilled birth attendants in recognised health facilities.
Earlier, the Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire, said 150,000 cases are recorded with 13,000 new cases every year, describing the prevalence in obstetrics fistula as a clear indication of inequality, irresponsiveness and weak health system to protect women and girls.
Similarly, Country Representative of UNFPA Ulla Mueller, disclosed that an estimated 500,000 cases is recorded globally, with 150,000 cases in Nigeria alone makes Nigeria the country with the highest cases in the world.
Also speaking, the Director of Women and Children at the National Human Rights Commission Mr. Harry Ogwuche, said Obstetric Fistula is a critical human rights issue that needs special focus, adding that survivors are victimised at several levels from childhood to motherhood making her vulnerable at all levels.
In her welcome address, Permanent Secretary of the ministry assured that the ministry is working towards attaining human dignity at all levels, calling on stakeholders to explore all opportunities to ending the scourge by tackling the exact needs of those with fistula across the country.