When former First Lady Margaret Kenyatta interacted with patients during a tour of the Specialized Reproductive Health Clinic 66 during the commemoration of the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula at Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi on May 25, 2021. [File, Standard]

Every year, Webuye County Hospital in Bungoma County reports a backlog of 10,000 fistula cases.

Dr Simon Kisaka, the facility’s Medical Superintendent attributed obstetric fistula to complications in birth often leading to stigma and isolation among affected women.

"Many of the fistula patients in our wards express difficulty sharing their experiences with their husbands and relatives, often distancing themselves," he says.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), obstetric fistula comes about during unassisted, prolonged, obstructed labour when the sustained pressure of the baby’s head on the mother’s pelvic bone damages soft tissues, creating a hole between the vagina and the bladder and/or rectum. The pressure deprives blood flow to the tissue, leading to necrosis. Eventually, the dead tissue comes away, leaving a fistula, which causes a constant leaking of urine and/or feces through the vagina. 

Dr Kisaka says fistulas take a huge toll on women's dignity. He urges women experiencing the symptoms to go for screening and medical attention.

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He welcomes frequent fistula camps organised by the County Health and Sanitation department and other partners such as the Mpesa Foundation, Flying Doctors and AMREF at Webuye County Hospital. 

"The frequent fistula camps at our facility have been instrumental in restoring the dignity of women, and I encourage those still in the villages to seek treatment," said Dr Kisaka.

He disclosed that the hospital, with support from partners, is armed to conduct at least 40 surgeries this year alone.

“Screening campaign continues unabated with 268 patients already screened, 40 are admitted and over 30 surgeries have been performed,” says Dr Kisaka.

He underscored the psychological effects of fistula in patients which often leads to depression, family breakdown, and suicidal thoughts.

Fistula patients from different counties including Busia, Kisumu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nakuru and Nandi among others have been seeking treatment at the Webuye County Hospital Patients seeking fistula treatment at Webuye County Hospital.

Dr Kisaka cited a case where a woman who has been battling fistula for 40 years was seen at the hospital.

Bungoma County Health Executive Dr Andrew Wamalwa says teenage mothers are particularly vulnerable to fistula because their bodies are not fully developed.

Wamalwa says FGM is a major contributor to fistula cases, especially in communities where the outlawed cultural practice persists.

He insists that pregnant women must deliver in hospitals to avoid higher risks of birth injuries during home delivery. 

The official says that Bungoma County has achieved an 88 per cent rate of skilled delivery while encouraging pregnant women to seek hospital delivery services.