NAIROBI, 23 May 2020 – First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has expressed the need to intensify the ongoing efforts to end obstetric fistula even as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic.
The First Lady said as the country steps up measures to fight the novel Coronavirus, the war against obstetric fistula should not be lost.
“During this Covid-19 pandemic period when health concerns have been prioritised to fight the pandemic, our healthcare facilities are not only strained but also disrupted.
“However, we should not lose focus since obstetric fistula is both a health and a human rights concern; we need to continue protecting our women and girls,” the First Lady said.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta made the remarks in a statement on this year’s International Day in Ending Obstetric Fistula being observed globally today.
“Today, as we remember the International Day in Ending Obstetric Fistula, especially during this critical Covid-19 season, I reaffirm my commitment to continue to fight for women and girls health and to support many more get surgical repair and treatment for the condition,” the First Lady said.
She encouraged pregnant women to continue seeking antenatal services for safe delivery of their babies by skilled birth professionals during this time and urged for more support towards ending Obstetric Fistula by 2030.
The First Lady observed that although Kenya has in the past couple of years registered encouraging decline in maternal mortality, pregnancy related complications such as obstetric fistula and other morbidities continue to be a public health concern.
“This is why I made a commitment to champion advocacy in ending Obstetric Fistula in Kenya by 2030, by creating awareness on prevention and also by encouraging women living with the condition to seek treatment through surgical repair,” the First Lady said.
Obstetric Fistula affects women who lack access to quality obstetric care. The disease is more prevalent among women living in communities whose cultural practices encourage early marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), both factors increase the risk of prolonged obstructed labour leading to the condition.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta pointed out that through her Beyond Zero Medical Safaris, held in partnership with AMREF in Narok, Kisumu, West Pokot, Nyandarua and Nairobi City counties, free fistula screening was offered to 865 women and girls, and a total of 193 free surgical repairs and treatment of the condition achieved.
“We have supported these women to integrate back into their communities and supported the training of 136 community healthcare workers who are the frontline care givers for our women and girls.”
“We have seen brave women champions who had suffered in silence, no longer suffering after fistula repair; they have become an inspiration for many others,” she observed.
The First Lady said she was encouraged by the Ministry of Health’s commitment to implementing the national strategic framework against obstetric fistula.
The framework dubbed the ‘National Strategic Framework on Female Genital Fistula: Towards a Free Fistula Nation’ launched on 9th May 2019, is the first of its kind in Africa.
Sexual and reproductive health complications including prolonged or obstructed labour due to small pelvic size, premature childbearing and/or malnutrition are some of the factors that predispose women to develop obstetric fistula.
According to the Ministry of Health 2018 data, the prevalence of Female Genital Fistula in Kenya is 1% with over 1,000 new cases recorded every year.