The Zero Fistula Project – Kolda

First fistula repair surgery camp in the Zero Fistula Project – Kolda

On the 16th, 17th and 18th of September 2014, the first fistula surgery camp took place in Kolda. This camp was one of the 4 camps that will be happening in the Zero Fistula project, between Amref Health Africa and Tostan and funded by the UNFPA, in Senegal. 11 women were identified by Tostan social mobilization agents and Amref’s focal point in the region of Kolda. These women came from different villages in the three districts of the region. In total, 13 women living with obstetric fistula were successfully operated at the regional hospital, by the Professor Issa Labou, Head of the Neurological Service of General Hospital of Dakar. Even the most complicated cases were successfully repaired.

During this mission to assist to the camp, we were able to meet the various stakeholders involved around this issue: the surgeon, doctors, social assistants, social mobilization agents and the women operated and their families.

We interviewed social mobilization agents about their sensitization work on fistula. Here is a testimony from Awa Silla, mobilization agent in the district of Médina Yoro Foulah:

How do you engage the discussion on fistula for a community that has never heard of it

It is very important to present yourself, the reason why you are here, what are our goals and objectives. We then talk about the project and the donors. This is followed by an explanation of the causes and treatment of fistula; for example, we may start with, “There is a condition called fistula, what does this condition mean?”

How do you draw the link between harmful traditional practices such as female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage and fistula?

We first explain that a woman can contract fistula during a difficult and prolonged child birth. We also explain that there are other causes, such as child/forced marriage, where young girls who are physically unable to give birth can contract fistula. In addition, we explain how FGC reduces the elasticity of the birth canal, causing complications during and after child birth.

How do you sensitize people about fistula?

First of all, we ask the village chief to organize a meeting in his community. Then, we use songs, dances, brochures, theatres sketches and talks to explain what fistula is and why it is important to be cured.

With the Zero Fistula Project, we plan to have more women for the second operation camp, especially thanks to the sensitization and the identification work of the social mobilization agents in the various villages of the region.

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