Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fistula leaves women discriminated

Women gather at Zomba Central Hospital in Southern Malawi in hundreds. It is not a social gathering, though one condition renders them peers and leaves them united.
Welcome to the Sexual Reproductive Health Ward at the referral public health institution for people from Zomba, Machinga, Mangochi, Balaka and Thyolo districts; common here, among these sad but hopeful women, is a condition termed 'Fistula'.
Fistula is a condition that arises in women who may have delayed to go to the hospital when time for labour approached, or those who delivered children when they thought they were strong mentally, but their bodies were too tender for such an orduous task.
Their condition makes them one because they all suffer from one societal vice: stigma and discrimination.
Mercy Chunda remembers the time she lived as a happily married woman in Machinga, and enjoyed the support of her husband Jimmy. Now, she is an outcast because of her condition, which makes her loose hold of her urinal muscles.
The end result is uncontrolled leakage of urine. This condition sees no place or status in society, and comes with some heavy smell that prompts people to shun those in this situation.
"I, and the other women in this room, are discriminated against because of the smell arising from our condition. The most painful moment in my life was when my husband told me he no longer wanted me; he said I smelt like pigs. Since then, I have been stuck at this place, hoping for a better tomorrow and reunion with my husband," said Chunda.
As it is, she still loves him.
"A lot".
Juliana Lunguzi, a reproductive health officer at UNFPA-Malawi, feels for the women, and hopes for a day society will stop frawning and discriminating women caught on the wrong side of sexual reproductive health.
"It is a sad situation but the good thing is that we are trying. UNFPA is helping these women buy making sure that they get operated on. A lot needs to be done to avert the situation," said Lunguzi.
Zomba Central Hospital Clinical Officer, Edwin Gondwe, said the institution operates on four patients each week, something that initiates the return of four women back home weeekly.
How about the rest?
"We are doing all we can to make sure that we aperate on all of them, as they come. The problem is often that resources do not permit us," said Gondwe.
He asked society to treat the women well, hoping, like Lunguzi, that ten years from now, Fistula will be history- like the urine that came uncontrolled, but stopped at the stroke of a knife for those cured from the condition.

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