The president-elect of Zonta International—a worldwide organization of business women and professionals working together to advance the status of women—visited Liberia to learn more about the efforts to end obstetric fistula and reduce maternal mortality in the country.
As part of her visit, Ms. Lynn McKenzie met Health and Social Welfare authorities to discuss efforts geared to improving maternal health, and held discussions with partners involved in the provision of fistula services in the country.
Advancing the status of women
“Zonta International is about advancing the status of women through quality health, education and a violence free society,” said Ms. McKenzie.
While in Liberia, she participated of the launch of the 2011 nationwide fistula repair campaign in Kakata, Margibi County, where she had the opportunity to hear the stories of women awaiting for fistula surgery at the C. H. Rennie Hospital.
During her visit, Ms. McKenzie also travelled to Bomi and Bong counties. Accompanied by health officials, she toured major health facilities providing reproductive health services for women and girls and spoke with patients as well as health workers.
In Phebe, Bong Country, the president-elect visited the Fistula Rehabilitation and Reintegration Center. “Fistula is a condition no woman should have to endure,” she told the almost 30 fistula survivors who, after receiving treatment, are now being trained in the life skills they need to go back to their lives.
She urged them to become ambassadors and role models for those who did not have the same opportunity. “You have to encourage other women living with fistula to come out and seek help, so that they can also enjoy the independence and freedom you now have,” Ms. McKenzie said.
Sando Moore, one of the fistula survivors benefiting from the rehabilitation programme at the center, told Ms. McKenzie how she had been discriminated against by her family and community. She thanked Zonta International and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for helping her regain dignity and respect.
The visit to Liberia also aimed at assessing the impact of Zonta International—the main supporter of the Liberia Fistula Project since 2008—on the lives of its beneficiaries. “We are here to ascertain what our organization can do to help strengthen the project even further and continue bringing pride and joy to these women and girls,” Ms. McKenzie explained.
At the end of the mission, Ms. McKenzie reaffirmed Zonta International’s investment in the Campaign to End Fistula in Liberia.
The Liberia Fistula Project was launched in 2007 by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with UNFPA. Since its launch and with funding from partners such as Zonta International, the program has supported the treatment of approximately 780 women and girls.
The project also runs a rehabilitation and reintegration program to ensure that there is proper follow-up and development of vocational skills to assist patients as they reintegrate back into their communities after treatment.
The program provides space for emotional healing and support services including counseling, training in life skills and income-generating activities. More than 170 survivors have been supported by the programme so far.
To make it a long term and sustainable effort, the Government of Liberia has begun the process of integrating the fistula project into the mainstream maternal health initiatives in Liberia.
Calixte Hessou reported from Liberia.
The report, recently released by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, calls for systematic notification of fistula cases and the creation of national registers to ensure proper care, follow up and support for all fistula patients.