Community fistula champions standing together.

Preventing fistula and improving maternal health in Nigeria

Country: Nigeria
Category: Improving health

Obstetric fistula is a debilitating condition affecting women and girls, causing incontinence and leaving them prone to infection. It is usually the result of prolonged labour and lack of maternal healthcare. Because fistula can result in the involuntary release of urine and/or faeces, those with the condition often become isolated and excluded from their communities.

Nigeria has one of the lowest levels of maternal and new-born health in the world, according to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS). It's estimated that 150,000 women and girls are living with fistula in the country, and around 13,000 more women develop fistula every year. The real figure may be much higher as women and girls with obstetric fistula often do not seek help. The stigma around incontinence means that many women feel ashamed and isolate themselves from others, not realising that fistula is a medical condition that can be treated.  

CBM is working with Survive Fistula Healthcare Foundation and ECWA Vesico Vaginal Fistula Centre to improve access to quality maternal and new-born health services in Central and North-Eastern Nigeria, including preventing and treating obstetric fistula. Together we are:

  • Providing surgery and rehabilitation for women living with fistula, including mental health support
  • Providing ante-natal and new-born care
  • Training women in sexual and reproductive health
  • Training health workers on the identification, prevention and treatment of fistula
  • Renovating and equipping health facilities to improve the quality of maternal healthcare that women receive
  • Raising awareness of maternal health to help prevent women from developing fistula and encourage those with the condition to seek support and treatment, by:
  • Creating radio jingles and adverts about fistula, to be aired on local radio stations, TV programmes and featured in newspapers and on social media
  • Supporting health clubs in secondary schools, to promote awareness on reproductive health to girls in schools
  • Tackling stigma and discrimination to enable women to access treatment for fistula, including training people from religious groups and secondary school teachers to be community champions
  • Supporting women and girls with fistula to start their own businesses, including business skills training
  • Advocating for the needs of women and girls with disabilities to be included into state and local government sexual and reproductive health plans and programmes.
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