Dr. Raassen and Dr. Mahendeka travelled to Nepal in May 2014 to provide surgeries to women suffering from obstetric fistula and conduct a fistula management workshop.
In May 2014, Dr. Thomas Raassen and Dr. Marietta Mahendeka travelled to Dharan, Nepal to conduct a weeklong workshop on fistula management and to provide life-changing operations to women impacted by obstetric fistula. Dr. Mohan Chandra, an Obstetrician and Gynecologist at the B.P Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan invited the two doctors to Nepal to assist him in performing operations for women suffering from complex cases of fistula. It was their first time in the country. Dr. Raassen and Dr. Chandra had met three years previously during a Vesico-vaginal Fistula (VVF) Workshop in Dhaka in Bangladesh.
Although Nepal has made tremendous progress in reducing maternal mortality – the maternal mortality rate in the country has decreased by 76% in the country since 1990 – it remains an important issue. According to recent United Nations’ figures it is estimated that 1,200 women die every year during pregnancy or childbirth. Furthermore, obstetric fistula and other childbirth and pregnancy related injuries remain common, especially in rural areas where maternal healthcare and emergency obstetric services are lacking. It is estimated that every year between 200 and 400 women suffer from obstetric fistula in Nepal, although the real figures are probably much higher as many women with the condition remain hidden out of shame and because they do not know they can be treated.
Dr. Marietta Mahendeka, Dr. Thomas Raassen, and Dr. Mohan Chandra
The workshop began on May 19th and was attended by the Vice-Chancellor and the Dean of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Ob-Gyn), as well as Professor Pushpa, the President of the Nepali Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (NESOG). Throughout the weeklong workshop the doctors carried out lectures on post-operative management and how to use catheters to treat obstetric fistula. Dr. Mahendeka trained nurses working in the Operation Theater and Ob-Gyn ward in pre- and post-operative care. The doctors also conducted consultations with 18 women suffering from various forms of fistula and were able to operate on 16. The women were between the ages of 28 and 75, and nine women had previously been already operated unsuccessfully. One of the women they had met with had been successfully operated on several months earlier and did not need another operation as she was suffering from stress incontinence. Another women who was HIV positive was not healthy enough to receive treatment but has been scheduled for surgery at a later date.
Dr. Thomas Raassen is one of the world’s leading fistula surgeons. Originally from the Netherlands, Dr. Raassen currently lives in Kenya and has worked in Africa for over 30 years. He has operated on women suffering from obstetric fistula in more than 60 hospitals throughout Africa and Asia. Dr. Marietta Mahendeka is a Tanzanian fistula surgeon who has treated fistula patients throughout Eastern Africa. She has operated on more than 2,700 women. Dr. Raassen and Dr. Mahendeka have been collaborating with WAHA International since 2011.