January 7, 2013

Fistula campaign launched in Puntland

The Ministry of Health of Somalia launched a campaign to end fistula in the country in partnership with UNFPA and WAHA International, an International NGO that works to help women access the healthcare services they need to live their lives fully and with dignity.  The launch ceremony, carried out last December in Puntland, was attended by government officials, community leaders, health workers, partners and community members.

During the opening speech, the Honorable Zainab Usas Yasin, Deputy Minister of Health, praised UNFPA for its continuous support in the fight against fistula.  "The support provided by UNFPA and WAHA is a great contribution to women and girls in our country," Ms. Yasin said.  "If we want to succeed and free our society from fistula, we need to collaborate and walk hand-in-hand."

Honorable Zainab Usas Yasin, Deputy Minister of Health, Somalia.

Dr. Ibrahim Ob-siye Elmi, Officer-in-Charge of UNFPA in Puntland, urged women and girls affected by fistula to take advantage of free services at the Bosaso General Hospital: “The fight against fistula is a priority for UNFPA because we want our work to have a direct impact on women and girls.”  He also praised the Government for its continued commitment and support to end fistula in the country.

During the campaign, all fistula patients will be provided with free comprehensive services, including surgery, counseling, food and accommodation, as well as money for transportation, clothes and hygiene products.

According to WAHA fistula surgeon, Dr. Nessy Basimike, fistula occurs when women and girls experience complications during childbirth and do not have access to timelly and qualified assistance: “It is estimated that around 90 per cent of all deliveries take place at home, attended by family members or traditional birth attendants (TBA).” Dr. Basimike stressed that teenage pregnancy and  Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) are also contributing factors to fistula, both with high prevalence in Somalia.

Nurse Fatuma Yossuf:  “A healthy woman makes a healthy family and a healthy nation.” Photo: WAHA International.

So far, 34 fistula patients have been identified. Aged 17 to 65 years, the patients come from various parts of the country and even from Ethiopia.  As part of the campaign, UNFPA is providing on-the-job fistula repair trainings to Somali health workers and raising community awareness about the availability of free fistula repair services at the public hospital.


Safia Adan, 32, is one of the fistula survivors who benefited from the campaign.  Mother of three, she lived with fistula for over nine years.

In 2004, during the delivery of her first child at home, she had a prolonged labor at home. When the TBA realized that she was experiencing complications, she advised Safia to go to Garowe Hospital, near her village.  At the hospital, although she delivered her child alive, it was too late to prevent fistula.

The campaign team doing rounds at Bosaso General Hospital:
Dr. Elmi, Nurse Fatuma, Surgeon Nessy and fistula patient Safia Adan.

Heartbroken and injured, Safia suffered for almost a decade. After three failed attempts to repair her fistula, she worried that she would never be healed. In December 2012, Safia came to Bosaso General Hospital and received a successful fistula surgery. Now she is filled with newfound hope for the future.