Twenty-nine women suffering from obstetric fistula underwent repair surgery here last week during a three-day marathon training session that involved medical staff from four Asian countries.
Organized by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, the training at Sylhet’s medical college hospital was part of an ongoing national effort to increase the number of doctors and nurses skilled in treating fistulae, internal wounds suffered during childbirth that cause incontinence.
Many of the patients suffered fistula when they were teenagers. Bilkiz Begum, 17, was among the youngest; she was afflicted while giving birth at 15. Some, like Rupbahar Begum, 45, have endured the noisome condition for two decades or more. Depending on the extent of their injuries, the operations took two to five hours.
Operating simultaneously in four teams, experienced surgeons, anaesthesiologists and nurses from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Timor Leste shared knowledge on fistula repair, while local medical staff and students observed the procedures. Dr. Sayeba Akhter, of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, was the senior surgeon.
It will take several weeks to determine the surgical outcome. Doctors in Bangladesh report a 80 per cent success rate in repairing fistula. But some patients with severe birth injuries require multiple procedures.
Sultana Begum, 22, endured eight operations over six years before being fully cured. Now a community fistula advocate, she was on hand to counsel patients prior to surgery. In her poor village north of Sylhet, she is part of a campaign to inform fistula sufferers of treatment options, and to prevent fistula by reducing early marriage and encouraging mothers to get skilled delivery assistance.
Similar training sessions in districts throughout Bangladesh have trained scores of doctors and nurses in the past several years, but this was the first to involve medical staff from other Asian countries. Some 1,200 Bangladeshis have undergone fistula surgery since 2003, when the UNFPA-led Global Campaign to End Fistula began providing medical equipment and financial support for training efforts and patient rehabilitation.
Source: UNFPA – 8 April 2008