The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said an estimated 150,000 young women and girls are living with untreated VVF in Nigeria.
It is defined as a hole that develops between the vagina and the bladder, resulting in uncontrollable leaking of urine through the vagina. The most common cause of vesico-vaginal fistula is obstructed labor, early marriage, poverty, and women’s limited control over the use of family resources.
According to the UNFPA Deputy Representative, Mrs Erika Goldson, a high-level conference on obstetric fistula organised by the Kaduna State Ministry of Health on Saturday.
Goldson attributed the alarming figure to the ineffectiveness of the Nigerian health systems to provide universal access to emergency obstetric care for women and girls who develop complications during labour.
She noted that this is compounded by cultural preferences and community ignorance of risks in-home deliveries and called for more investment in the prevention of new cases and treatment of existing ones.
The UNFPA deputy representative revealed that Nigeria accounts for about 7.5 per cent of the global fistula burden, a figure she said was totally unacceptable.
According to the global body, obstetric fistula is preventable and can largely be avoided by delaying pregnancy, ensuring skilled birth attendants during child delivery, and providing timely access to obstetric care for all women who develop complications during childbirth.
It is estimated that between 400,000 and 800,000 women live with VVF in Nigeria, a medical condition that allows for the continuous and involuntary discharge of urine and faeces by the victim.
In addition, there are thousands of new cases recorded each year, with Kaduna State alone accounting for 12,000 existing cases in the country.
Wife of the state governor, Mrs Aisha El-Rufai, who was also at the conference advocated for strong legislation that would protect VVF victims from discrimination by their families and the society.
On her part, the Commissioner of Human Services and Social Development, Hafsat Baba, spoke about the purpose of the conference.
She explained that it was organised to raise awareness about the tragic childbirth injuries that incapacitates thousands of mainly poor and uneducated young adolescents who live in rural areas with poor access to quality maternal healthcare.
Other speakers at the event highlighted various ways of ending the pain, healing wounds, and restoring the dignity of VVF victims and called for concerted action.