Fistula on the increase in Liberia -As over 40 women undergone operation at Phebe Hospital

An Obstetric fistula is at an alarming proportion in Liberia, the head of the Liberia Fistula Project, Dr. John Mulbah has told the INSIGHT.
An obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labor, leaving a woman incontinent of urine or feces or both.
For women with obstructed labor, labor that goes unattended, the labor can last up to six or seven days. It is commonly known in Liberia as "Pupu and pepe sickness."

Dr. Mulbah speaking to the INSIGHT Wednesday when the Liberia Fistula Project kickoff the operation on patients at the Phebe Hospital in Gbarnga, Bong County,  said, there are many cases of the disease now in the Country.
Dr. Mulhah however blamed the increase in the number of cases in the country to the deadly Ebola outbreak which saw health facilities broken down throughout Liberia.
As a result of the situation, he said women were abandoned without access to quality maternal care.
He said his year’s project had earmarked 20 patients for operation, but was surprised to have more than doubled the number.
Up to Wednesday, when the operations got underway, there were more than 40 patients on the operation walls and there is news that more are still pouring in.
"We had expected to carryout about 20 surgeries on fistula patients this term, but the number has doubled as a result of the Ebola crisis. As you may know, hospitals and clinics were closed during the crisis and because of this; women could not get good care from maternal centers.
Dr. Mulbah disclosed that since the Liberia Fistula Project was established in Liberia, over 1,500 surgeries have been performed.
Dr. Mulbah is aided by two foreign doctors in the conduct of the operations. He said, the project is now training about nine Liberian doctors in obstetric operation.
“I went abroad to learn how to do obstetric surgery, but we now have a program to train our own doctors and we have about nine people currently undergoing the training. This will allow us to ably deal with this sickness. So, when I am not around, we will have people in Grand Kru, Nimba, Sinoe and everywhere to do such operations,” he explained.
He mentioned prevention, treatment and rehabilitation as the three components of the project, indicating that the victims are always trained on prevention.
Dr. Mulbah however, frowned on the low support for the project which is geared at giving dignity to women and girls in Liberia from the Government.
He said the project is being solely supported by   the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). 

Meanwhile, the Program Assistant of the Project, Marlene Tokpa, also told the Insight that after the operations, some of the patients would be taken to skills development program for rehabilitation of their lives before being re-integrated into the society.
She said the Project thought it wise to include the skills training component due to constant rejection the victims of the disease receive from relatives, spouses and family members.
Madam Tokpa said they offered tailoring, soap making, catering, cosmetology as well as adult literacy among others after the victims’ dignities have been restored.
“Most of these people have been rejected by their families members, by their spouses and some don’t usually want to return home after the operation, so we take them to Waterside, a skills training  area here at Phebe. We afford them skills so that when they returned, they can be easily accepted or become independent,” She told Insight.

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