No fewer than 100 Vesicovaginal Fistula, VVF, patients are lined up for free repair surgery under the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, SI, Project in collaboration with Fistula Foundation Nigeria, FFN, in Sokoto.
The exercise is scheduled to take place from June 2 to June 12 this year at the Fistula Treatment Centre at the Maryam Abacha Women and Children’s Hospital, Sokoto.
The Spotlight Initiative project is a global, multi-year partnership between the EU and UN to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, focusing on sexual and Gender Based Violence, GBV, and Harmful Traditional Practices, HTPs.
VVF is an abnormal opening between the bladder and the vagina that results in continuous and unremitting urinary incontinence.
Umar Idris, the Sokoto Spotlight Desk Officer of the UN Population Fund, UNFPA, said at the inauguration of the exercise on Thursday in Sokoto that “the VVF surgery is regarded in the Spotlight project as a way of restoring women’s dignity.”
Idris, who appealed for increased understanding by stakeholders and communities at large, noted that beneficiaries of the surgery were drawn from four local government areas of the state, namely Bodinga, Binji, Tangaza and Sokoto North.
The Executive Director of FFN, Musa Isa, said 68 patients had been mobilised, while 21 already repaired by a team of experts drawn from different health institutions.
Isa added that “more patients are coming and screening is ongoing, the VVF surgery targets 100 patients.
“The experts do both complex and simple surgeries, including implantations and specialised services to cure the condition.
“The COVID-19 pandemic led to an upsurge in the number of fistula patients as many women were delivered of babies at home without professional support due to the lockdown order to curtail the spread of the virus.
“As you can see, most of the patients are fresh fistula cases; this is the third exercise; many were operated freely and empowered through the donor support.”
He urged women and girls living with the condition from any part of the country to register at the centre for the free surgery to solve the problem.
Earlier, the Sokoto State Commissioner for Health, Dr Ali Inname, said VVF could be caused by prolonged labour during childbirth, rape or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), among other causes, noting, however, that the condition could be treated through surgery.
He added that the state government had been doing its best toward supporting patients through free surgery and treatment.
He said other assistance given to the women after the surgery included education and empowerment with relevant skills, as well as reintegration back to communities due to stigma associated with the condition.
He noted that the state government targeted 400 patients for the surgery this year and commended donor agencies for the assistance.
The commissioner said that some patients underwent three different surgeries due to complications and spent years on treatment.