By Jude Okwe
The Federal Government has promised to treat 66,000 women suffering from Vesico Vagina Fistula (VVF) this year.
The Programme Manager of United States of America International Development (USAID), Chief Iyeme Efem, gave the promise Monday in Calabar at a media roundtable on National Strategic Framework on Elimination of Fistula.
Nigeria has 250,000 women suffering from this disease which is caused by the development of a hole in the birth canal of a woman.
Most of the victims are in the rural areas and only get to know that there is a cure for the disease courtesy of the sensitisation and medical activities of USAID.
But this figure, according to him, appears to be a tall dream because USAID, between 2008 and now, treated only 8,000 patients. “Nigeria is still in dire need of trained medical personnel on VVF hence the possibility of the Federal Government meeting this target is slim,” Efem added.
His fear was based on the fact that the same Federal Government, which made a provision of N300 million and N250 million in the 2011 and 2012 budgets respectively failed to release the money as expected.
The programme manager said it costs $250 (about N45,000) to treat a single patient besides the amount, N50,000 was needed to rehabilitate her, stressing that government’s bureaucracy and the Nigerian factor may work against government’s good intention.
He appealed for the release of previous estimates for the treatment of fistula.
Efem explained that it took him and a few others time and energy to convince the Federal Ministry of Health to prevail on the National Assembly to budget for fistula treatment in the country and commended former Senator Iyabo Obasanjo for convincing her colleagues to make provisions for the disease in the budget.
Efem said his pessimism over government’s medical plan for the year was because only few Nigerian doctors and nurses have ventured into the treatment of VVF hence he saw no possibility of government meeting the 66,000 patients target.
He stressed that VVF is a disease that requires specialised training by medical personnel.
According to him, “treating VVF is time consuming as the disease is often complicated, which means only few sufferers can be attended to in a week or month if a patients does not to suffer a relapse.”
The head of the National Fistula Hospital, Abakiliki, Ebonyi State, Dr. Henry Uro-Chukwu, who presented a paper on the ‘Making of the National Strategic Framework on Fistula,’ said they were working on having fistula included in the curriculum of medical colleges of Nigerian universities to introduce students to the disease.
He said when he was a medical student some years ago, he only heard about the disease but knew nothing about its causes and treatment.
Uro-Chukwu added that once medical students were introduced to the disease early enough, they would develop interest and want to become specialists which in the main would produce many experts on it.
He revealed that they were working on having a Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with medical doctors to make it compulsory for them to serve at least for three years in rural areas where fistula is endemic before returning to the urban centres.
It is only through this, he added, that the war against VVF would be waged successfully as the disease was dehumanising women in the rural areas where its awareness is still low and patients are ignorant of its free treatment in the urban centres.