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A man’s war against obstetric fistula

by Damilola Oyedele


Damilola Oyedele

Damilola Oyedele

He is not a medical doctor, but he is working in a medical field. All he is armed with is a diploma in sociology, a degree in community health and a heart of compassion. Since 1987, Musa Isa has worked in northern Nigeria’s Kano state. By Damilola Oyedele

His Fistula Foundation, assists victims of obstetric fistula to get treatment. An obstetric fistula, or vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF), is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder which is caused by prolonged, obstructed labour. The vagina often tears when a pregnant teenager is giving birth. That has serious long-term implications, because it leaves the woman incontinent of urine or feces or both. Patients often become social pariahs. Almost 200,000 Nigerian women suffer from this ailment.

Musa Isa’s regular day’s work sees him driving through farmlands and almost impassable roads, trying to reach faraway communities. When he encounters women suffering from vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF), he appeals to their husbands or parents to allow that these patients are taken to the Laure VVF Center at the Muritala Mohammed hospital in Kano State. The foundation’s community mobilisers raise awareness of the issue in the communities they live in. VVF patients deserve medical help, but not to be kept at home.

The repair surgeries are paid for by the state government with assistance from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and US Agency for International Development (USAID). The foundation is also involved in providing counselling and psychological support to the victims.

“From 2010 to date, we have been able to provide about 98 communities with information on fistula,” Musa Isa says. “We were able to identify many patients within these communities who suffered from VVF for many years without knowing where to go and where to get treatment. We support them to reach medical facilities and have successful surgeries.”

In a society where mixing between men and women is discouraged, Musa Isa arouses a lot of interest by working in a field related to the physical anatomy of women. This has brought him threats from many husbands who feel it is their right to determine if their wives should be taken to health-care facilities or not. Isa simply laughs off such threats. He will continue to fight against fistula, by raising awareness in the communities – including on the need for pregnant women to be taken to the hospital at the onset of labour.

Damilola Oyedele is Senior Correspondent, Foreign Affairs/Gender, at THISDAY Newspaper. She lives in Abuja, Nigeria. [email protected]


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