By Olimatou Coker
The First Lady Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow has called on policymakers to allocate at least 3 percent of the national annual budget towards the implementation of actions and activities linked to ending fistula (severe child birth injuries), FGM and early marriage in The Gambia.
She was speaking at the launch of a nationwide campaign supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) to eliminate fistula in the country by 2030.
Obstetric fistula is one of the most severe childbirth injuries affecting women globally. It results from prolonged and obstructed labour without access to timely, high-quality medical treatment leading to cchronic medical problems, depression, social isolation, and deepening poverty.
However, prevalence estimates drawn from proxy measures of maternal and perinatal death mortality rates, fistula treatment data as well as contextual data.
The 2020 situational analysis puts the prevalence rate of fistula at 0.46 to 2.05 per 100 women while the current national burden is estimated at between 335 to 1,052.
According to the First Lady, the data on obstetric fistula indicates a weak status of emergency obstetric and neonatal care in the country.
She warned that due to the limited awareness about the risks and causes of fistula, limited access to its treatment and inadequate preventive measures, cases are likely to increase if efforts are instituted to reverse the trend.
Madam Bah-Barrow explained that one way to address these challenges is to encourage open discussions on this topic to help raise awareness on its causes and symptoms, necessary to end stigma and discrimination.
“This campaign will not only target women, but also their families, especially husbands, who are the key players in managing this condition within the family and the community at large,” she stated.
Also speaking at the launching at the Sir Dawda Jawara conference centre, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare Fatou Kinteh, reiterated the government’s commitment towards eliminating fistula in the country and its root causes at the community levels.
Minister Kinteh reported that her ministry has embarked on implementing series of local programs and strategies aimed at tackling the complex circumstance and conditions that contribute to the development of obstetric fistula in various communities.
UNFPA country representative, Ndeye Rose Sarr, disclosed that the agency is partnering with the Ministry of Health to support the training of 200 midwives annually in midwifery training institutions to ensure that no one is left behind in accessing quality obstetric care in The Gambia.