The Kaduna State Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) Centre at Gambo Sawaba General Hospital, Zaria, is conducting free fistula repair surgery to no fewer than 100 survivors annually.
Dr. Ado Zakari, the Director of Medical Services in the Ministry of Health, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Zaria on Monday.
Zakari described VVF, commonly known as obstetric fistula, as “a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder.”
According to him, the condition is caused by prolonged obstructed labour leaving a woman with uncontrolled urine, faeces or both.
He recalled that the centre was established in 1998 when he was the Medical Director of the hospital following concerns over the rising cases of the condition, particularly among rural women.
The director, who is the only surgeon at the centre, said that he was trained by Dr. Kees Waldjk based in Holland, adding that he often visited the centre to carry out surgeries.
He said that with support from Rotary International, Nigerian Breweries Limited, UNFPA, Fifth Chukker and other partners, the centre grew over the years from one ward to three with a total of 42 beds.
According to him, the centre has a dedicated theatre for interrupted repair surgeries, a kitchen to cook food for survivors, a store and fence.
Zakari, however, said that more doctors were needed to carry out repair surgeries in order to reduce the waiting time for survivors.
He said that the current Medical Director of the hospital had agreed to be trained, while younger doctors were being persuaded to volunteer for the training initiative.
“The surgery is free, and I have been able to conduct more than 300 simple repair surgeries while the complex ones were left for Dr. Waldjk to handle whenever he comes around.
“The major challenge is the length of stay at the centre, a minimum of six weeks after the surgery, and each survivor is expected to feed herself.
“As such, many of them who could not feed themselves within the period had to leave; but gradually, we were able to mobilise support from the government and other partners,” he said.
NAN also reports that to address the challenge, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Development is leading the response in the rehabilitation and feeding of survivors.
The commissioner in the ministry, Hajiya Hafsat Baba, told NAN that the state government had created a budget line to specifically take care of the feeding of survivors so that they could stay longer to be healed.
“We have also equipped the centre with facilities so that they can acquire skills in tailoring, knitting and liquid soap making, among others, while UNFPA provides dignity kits and other technical support,” she said.
The Ministry of Education, she added, had also provided a teacher to teach survivors.
According to her, the wife of Gov. Nasir el-Rufai, Aisha-Ummi, also renovated the kitchen and store as well as provided interlocking pavement within the premises.
Baba added that some of the survivors that acquired skills and those with small businesses had benefited from the Kaduna State Women Empowerment Fund.
She said that the most important support was in form of education, adding these had been helping survivors in fighting stigma as well as building self-esteem and confidence.
The Matron-in-Charge of the facility, Mrs Fatima Umar, said that there were currently more than 40 survivors at the centre, with some recuperating while others were awaiting surgery.
Umar, who told NAN that more than 22 survivors had surgery between June 29 and July 3, pointed out that survivors from other states including Lagos come to the centre for treatment.
“Those that could not be accommodated due to lack of bed space are usually contacted whenever others exited the rehabilitation programme,” she said. (NAN)