Health advocates lobby for free fistula surgery

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BY SILISIWE MABALEKA
HEALTH advocates are lobbying the Health and Child Care ministry to consider exempting pregnant women from paying for vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) surgery because of its prohibitive costs.

Founder and director of Beat Non-Communicable Diseases Zimbabwe (BeatNCDs Zim) Jacob Ngwenya told NewsDay that some of the women suffering from VVF were poor and could not afford the surgery.

A VVF is an abnormal opening that forms between the bladder and the wall of the vulva.

“This condition affects women in many fronts and its prolonged existence in a patient is very traumatising especially due to financial constraints. If Zimbabwe is serious about achieving universal health coverage leaving no one behind, VVF surgeries should be free in government institutions, especially given the economic and social background of those who need it,” Ngwenya said.

“A comprehensive policy must be in place encompassing women. VVF surgery has to be protected and must not be denied to anyone who needs attention as it impacts on human dignity. The government must invest more to prevent avoidable suffering of women.”

A senior doctor at Mpilo Central Hospital, Misheck Ruwende said women with the condition end up suffering communal anathema.

“This operation should be done for free considering pregnancy complications. It should be offered freely so that women will be able to afford it. The Health ministry should work with other ministries to address the risk factors of these VVFs as these are birth-related and usually affect less-educated, poor people. There is need to teach these women about reproductive health issues, and to discourage teenage pregnancies, while encouraging early medical attention and decentralisation of health centres where operations for such complications can be performed,” Ruwende said.

Surviving VVF without operation is a serious nightmare for affected woman who usually end up experiencing uncontrollable urine leakages and stigma.

“They can get divorced by their husbands, abandoned and remain childless, while others are even blamed by the community which views this condition as a sexually transmitted disease,” he said.

VVF surgery is done on women suffering from uncontrollable urine leaks after delivering babies.

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