Ms Ulla Muller, the Country Representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Nigeria, says Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF) is one of the most devastating conditions a woman can live with.
She made the assertion during a Forum held virtually on Sunday.
VVF is an abnormal opening between the bladder and the vagina that results in continuous and unremitting urinary incontinence. The entity is one among the most distressing complications of gynecologic and obstetric procedures.
However, it could be treated through surgery, depending on the severity.
Muller, who described such health condition as “most undignifying condition for any woman”, said it was capable of stigmatising the woman or girl if not given proper and prompt intervention.
She identified early marriage, prolong labour and a situation where a girl becomes pregnant before maturity as some of the factors that fuel VVF, and advised against it.
She said “fistula I think is one of the most devastating condition a woman can live with; it is a condition that only impacts on women; it leads to huge stigmatisation and marginalisation; it is undignified for woman to live with fistula because she loses her place in the society. A lot of women living with the condition are very young, forced into marriage and become pregnant earlier than when they should, and have to carry a child when they are still children themselves; we can do better than that; it is very important and this is something very close to my heart”.
The country representative, who said VVF was preventable if only young women and girls would be allowed to mature before getting pregnant, noted that “Nigeria has one of the biggest caseload in the world; we have to end it”.
She explained that while UNFPA was committed to maintaining fistula repairs across the country, some of the best fistula doctors are from Nigeria, and they are ready to conduct repair surgeries to fix the anomaly.
She said the surgeries were being conducted at the Maryam Abacha Women and Childrens’ Hospital in Sokoto, Gamawa General Hospital in Bauchi State, Jericho Nursing Home, Ibadan, among other places.
Muller also spoke about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a harmful traditional practice happening in many communities around the globe, saying the UNFPA had many programmes to persuade people to stop the bad practice and many communities, especially in the Southern part of the country had publicly denounced it.
The country representative also expressed the willingness of UNFPA to bring justice to survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV), especially rape in the country.
She said ending GBV around the globe is one of the Fund’s mandate and all hands are on deck to achieve the goal.
According to her, the greatest challenge to ending rape as GBV is establishing the facts to ascertain who the perpetrator is, even in prosecution.
She noted that “one of the challenges in Nigeria is that even when there is prosecution, there is no sentencing; we need to prove who the perpetrator is, and I am proud to say we have opened a forensic laboratory in Yola, the Adamawa capital, with the help of the state governor and Ministry of Health. The laboratory, made possible with the assistance of the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative project, would collect forensic evidence for rape and it would be possible to do a DNA to ascertain a rape perpetrator to bring justice to women”.
The country representative, who empathised with millions of women around the globe and in Nigeria especially in the North East with the prolong insurgency, said UNFPA would continue to provide humanitarian interventions to them.
She listed areas of intervention to include the provision of safe space and shelter on demand to women.
She explained that apart from ensuring that vulnerable women accessed healthcare when in need, rape survivors received proper clinical management, while the UNFPA also distribute dignity kits to women in Internally Displaced Peoples’ (IDPs) camp.
She listed items in the kits to include clothing material for the women to cover themselves, reusable sanitary pads, pants and a whistle to blow when in danger to attract attention.