Starting this week, WAHA International will be performing fistula repair surgeries in South Sudan
Over fifty women are already scheduled for treatment. These operations mark the beginning of a new fistula care program in Juba and Wau hospitals that will provide continuous capacity for identifying, referring and treating fistula patients from the cities of Juba and Wau and their surrounding regions. The program also seeks to improve the capacities of local medical staff in providing fistula care services.
Since gaining independence in 2011, the Republic of South Sudan has been coping with a shattered health system, including a lack of trained medical personnel and limited resources, as a result of past decades of civil strife and conflict.
Data on obstetric fistula cases are not available, but women in South Sudan are at a particularly high risk of being affected due to the lack of access to quality obstetric care and some customary beliefs and practices that hinder timely access to maternal health services. Recent estimates suggest a shocking maternal mortality ratio of 2,054 deaths per 100,000 live births*, among the highest in the world, and one which is consistent with very high rates of childbirth complications such as obstetric fistula.
Working in partnership with the two largest referral hospitals in the country – the university teaching hospitals of Juba and Wau, which both receive a large number of patients from surrounding states and rural health centers – WAHA International will establish fistula care services while also improving hospital conditions and staff training opportunities.
Through an intensive media campaign including SMS, television and radio spots and community mobilization activities, WAHA has already identified fifty fistula cases, which will be treated in Juba University Hospital, starting this week. Within a fortnight, a parallel program will start in Wau with a similar range of community mobilization activities followed by referral and treatment of cases. Identification and treatment of fistula cases will be done on a continuous basis, by informing the communities about the new services, liaising closely with surrounding health facilities to identify cases and organizing patient transportation.
A team of WAHA fistula surgeons will be performing the interventions and providing on-the-job training to South Sudanese medical staff in order to establish a local team of skilled fistula surgeons and support staff who will be able to treat cases in the long run.
With this long-term strategy, WAHA International will strengthen the capacities of two important health facilities in the country and impact the lives of many women who today are suffering from obstetric fistula. * World Health Organization http://www.who.int/countryfocus/cooperation_strategy/ccsbriefs_sdn_en.pdf