Dr Habib Sadauki,
Nigeria’s Project Manager, Engender Health USAID/Fistula Care Plus, in 2015, spoke on Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF), a serious health challenge faced by women of child bearing-age. He said about 120 new cases of VVF are reported yearly in Nigeria.
Dr Habib, made this comment barely a year after the Minister of Health in the Jonathan Goodluck’s cabinet’s, Prof. C. O. Onyebuchi Chukwu had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria to take over Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) centers across Nigeria.
Prof. Chukwu noted that the available data then, showed a decline in the incidence of VVF cases in Nigeria which he attributed to a supposed renewed effort of the then administration and its partners to address the reproductive health of women and girls suffering from VVF.
In the words of the former minister, one of the renewed efforts by the previous government included among others, a national training on Obstetric fistula Management for Doctors and Nurses in 2011 in Katsina, Kano and Ebonyi States. Onyebuchi observed that the take-over of the centre by the federal government would bring expansion of services for the treatment and rehabilitation of VVF patient thereby reducing the backlog of VVF patients in the country at large.
The bottomline of this so-called renewed effort of the government was its role in the promotion of women’s health, which is considered very crucial to both the family and the society for national stability and development.
Just last week, the current leadership of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, flagged off free VVF surgeries for ten thousand, one hundred and fifty (10,150) patients under the Rapid Results Initiative, (RRI) programme which is aimed at performing ten thousand, one hundred and fifty Vesico Vaginal Fistula, (VVF) free surgeries.
This initiative to repair VVF cases, said to be part of the better-health-for-all project of the present administration, was said to be borne out of the need to respond to the critical needs of the people and deliver on the mandate of promoting health focus on access, affordability and demand.
But going by the confession of the former Minister of Health, Prof. Chukwu, that available data during his time in office indicated a decline in VVF cases, which he attributed to the effort of the government of the time under review, one expects a more reduced cases of this health enigma if the claims on ground are anything to go by.
However, the vigorous approach undertaken by the current administration does but reveals the extent to which this health challenge is still prevalent in Nigeria especially in the northern part of the country.
Could the persistent prevalence of VVF in Nigeria inspite of the measures by successive governments to combat it be interpreted to mean that the remedial approaches so adopted had been more of palliative than preventive measures?
Luckily the current Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, while following VVF repair cases at the Federal Medical Centre, Jabi, Abuja, last week, was quoted to have said that his ministry would continue to train more personnel on how to carry out the Fistula repair since it is preventable as well as treatable.
My interest is hinged on the preventability of the ailment. The minister’s decision to partner with Society of Obstetric Fistula Surgeons (SOFS) as well as the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs to educate Nigerians that obstetric Fistula is preventable could best be described as a step in the right direction if the federal government is sincere on getting result in its fight against VVF.
It is, therefore, expected that while the federal government’s health project is intended to enable the poor and the vulnerable who hitherto could not afford the Fistula treatment to beam with smile, the involvement of the global community, the religious and traditional institutions in mobilizing support for this initiative, especially as it concerns educating the masses on the preventability of this challenging ailment, is of paramount importance.
It is not gainsaying the fact that so much money has been spent for the care of VVF patients in the past, ranging from the repair surgery to the rehabilitation of victims, not excluding the training of professions in the field which dearth had constituted a serious drawback to meeting target in the past.
Thus, there is every need to wage war against the VVF scourge by nipping its causes in the bud. This can only be made possible through investing more in the education of the masses on how to avoid the scourge. Besides, it is cheaper to prevent than to cure.