Throughout this past year, we provided the resources needed to treat efficiently the scores of Ghanian women waiting for surgery at the Tamale Fistula Centre.
This is the total number of gynecological surgeries performed at the Fistula Centre in Tamale in the year 2013, out of which 81 were fistula repair surgeries. This information was extracted from the Theatre Record Book at the Tamale Fistula Centre.
Estimated girls & women affected
Over 40 radio discussions on obstetric fistula were organized through eight radio stations in the Northern Region in the five major languages to sensitize communities on the causes, prevention, and management of obstetric fistula. This number was estimated considering the population of the total coverage areas of these radio stations in relation to call in distribution.
Estimated community members affected
Your generous support provided the resources needed to treat the scores of patients waiting for surgery more efficiently, shortening the long line of Ghanaian women desperate to transform their lives and restore their health and dignity. Working together, the Tamale Fistula Centre and the UNFPA Ghana country office purchased and installed a Hot Air Autoclave (for equipment sterilization) and an anesthetic machine. Having the Hot Air Autoclave at the Tamale Fistula Center allows surgeons to sterilize their surgical instruments on site rather than having to bring them to the closest hospital. The anesthetic machine permits patients to receive continuous and accurate doses of anesthetic.
Beyond treating and repairing fistulas, your generous support enabled the Tamale Fistula Centre to promote awareness of obstetric fistula to help prevent and encourage treatment of this childbirth injury. Funds were allocated to Tamale Fistula Centre advocates so that they could engage community members on fistula through radio programs, visits to churches and mosques, and attend other community level gatherings. Without question, this is an important step in reaching traditional authority figures and addressing the societal challenges faced by patients.
‘’Now, at least I will die and join my ancestors in dignity’’ – Gularima, an 85 year-old woman who had lived with obstetric fistula for 50 years and had just received a successful surgical repair.
Risks and challenges
One challenge faced is the lack of critical health care professionals. The Centre lacks a resident OBGYN, an anesthesiologist, and relies on volunteers and staff outreach to support services. The Centre also lacks catering services and a kitchen, resulting in fistula patients depending on their relatives to bring them meals. This leads to congestion at the Centre. In addition, there is a low bed capacity at the Centre. This affects the number of surgeries that can be performed at a time. Fistula surgeries requires at least 10 days of intensive post surgery care before clients can get out of bed. This seriously limits the number of surgeries that can be performed at a time.
What we’ve learnt
Working in partnership with local media reaped untold benefits. Because fistula is now openly discussed, women suffering from the condition are no longer ashamed to seek treatment. A total of 136 incontinence (urine/fecal) surgeries were carried out at the Centre in 2013, of which 51 required complex surgery. A success rate of over 92% was achieved.
Our next steps are to finalize the Terms of Reference for the establishment of the Centre Management Committee, inaugurate the Committee, and secure additional resources for the expansion of the Tamale Fistula Centre. In addition, we’ll carry out ongoing radio and community outreach.
Plans are underway to ensure that all of the key stakeholders are involved in the creation and inauguration of the Support Centre before year-end.
Amount spent so far
Health Care Supplies
Radio and Community Outreach
Establish and Support Centre Management Committee
To learn more about UNFPA's Campaign to End Fistula, please visit: www.endfistula.org.
Scholarship recipients identified
This project was fully funded on May 16, 2013, and Catapult delivered your donations to Friends of UNFPA on June 5th. We are currently in the process of transferring these funds to the Tamale Fistula Centre in Ghana, so that project activity can get underway. As a result, we’ll provide a more comprehensive update for you here on May 17, 2014.
While preparations to put the funds to good use are in progress, we have continued the fight against obstetric fistula by sharing information on this preventable childbirth injury throughout the globe.
This year, Friends of UNFPA will be honoring two women’s rights champions with the International Award for the Health and Dignity of Women and Girls – one of these honorees is Dr. John Mulbah, a fistula repair surgeon working in Liberia as part of UNFPA’s Campaign to End Fistula.
By highlighting Dr. Mullah’s important work in restoring health and dignity to fistula survivors to the public and on Capitol Hill, Friends of UNFPA is advancing UNFPA’s mission to raise awareness of obstetric fistula, increase repair surgeries for those mothers who suffer with the injury, and to ultimately eradicate fistula worldwide.
Additionally, UNFPA recently hosted the first ever International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, which coincided with the 10th year anniversary of UNFPA’s Campaign to End Fistula.
The amplified visibility for the issue, combined with the funding of this project, will continue to help ensure the world’s fistula victims receive the care and treatment they need to restore their health and transform their lives. Your support is instrumental in improving the lives of women and girls everywhere.
On behalf of UNFPA’s Representative in Ghana, Dr. Bernard Coquelin, the entire UNFPA/Ghana team and most certainly the women living with fistula in Ghana, “We want to thank you wholeheartedly for your support ... and, again we say,….thank you…medaa ase!”
Help the Tamale Fistula Centre in Northern Ghana improve quality of care and raise awareness to prevent injuries and to encourage women to seek help.
Why we care: Obstetric fistula—a hole in the birth canal resulting from prolonged or obstructed childbirth—is a preventable condition that leaves up to 100,000 girls and women each year with life-long incontinence. As a result of the stigma associated with the condition, women living with fistula are often isolated, neglected or abandoned by family and community, and left to rely on the charity and mercy of others.
How we’re solving this: By improving the centre’s supply of basic healthcare supplies, creating a management committee to help improve centre operations and advocating for fistula prevention and treatment in Northern Ghana.
Recently, you helped raise enough funding to train new doctors and acquire essential equipment for the Tamale Fistula Centre—this is helping us perform more fistula repair surgeries and help women overcome a critical obstacle in reclaiming their lives.
But our work is not yet complete.
Since its doors opened in 2010, the Tamale Fistula Centre has successfully treated more than 200 women and girls. The Centre, which is supported by UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund), and other regional agencies, has one operating room, a 10-bed recovery ward and a staffing office.
With the high demand for these services, the centre often has shortages of basic supplies, including towels, surgical gloves and special sutures required for fistula repair surgeries. We need funding to increase the supply of these healthcare essentials.
In addition to supplies, the Tamale Fistula Centre needs to establish a management committee to help maintain the facility, ensure continued training of staff, and enhance staff motivation and dedication to the cause. A management committee would provide better incentives to staff and more oversight on activities, creating better care, long-term sustainability, and making a meaningful change to the understanding and treatment of fistula in Northern Ghana. We need funding help to identify committee members, organize meetings, create terms of reference, and support committee activities.
Beyond treating and repairing fistulas, the Tamale Fistula Centre is committed to promoting awareness of obstetric fistula to help prevent and encourage treatment of this childbirth injury. We need funding to help Tamale Fistula Centre advocates engage community members on fistula through radio programs, visits to churches and mosques and other community level social gatherings. This is an important step in reaching traditional authority figures and addressing the societal challenges faced by patients. Women suffering from obstetric fistula are often too ashamed and isolated to seek help; improving community understanding of this childbirth injury supports more women in coming forward and seeking the care they need.
Lend your support to the Tamale Fistula Centre and stand by the women of Northern Ghana. With your help, more women can lead lives of health, dignity and greater opportunity.
Health care supplies
- Theatre gowns
- Surgical globes
- Soap and detergents
Radio and community outreach
- At least two radio discussions per month
Establish and support the Centre Management Committee
- Organize consultations to develop committee’s terms of reference
- Select management committee members
- Orient management committee
- Support committee activities
*Budget includes administrative expenses.