The team leader of the Liberia Fistula Project (LFP), Dr. John S. Mulbah, has praised Zonta International and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for their immense support to the LFP.
Dr. Mulbah, who is also the lead surgeon on the project, spoke with journalists over the weekend at the UNFPA-Liberia Offices on Mamba Point.
He stated that with support from Zonta through UNFPA, the team has been able to fix the fistula problems of more than a thousand girls and women from Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and La Côte d’Ivoire.
He said Liberian women and girls fixed amounted to at least 92 percent, three percent Ivorians and rest Guineans and Sierra Leoneans.
Dr. John Mulbah further stated that Zonta’s is helping to transform the lives of many women and girls within and outside Liberia.
He, however, stressed that it was too early to celebrate the gains that have so far been made in trying to eradicate fistula from Liberia.
Among other things, Dr. Mulbah said the 11 fistula projects around the country still needed more support from Zonta International so as to do all they can to end fistula in Liberia.
He used to occasion to call on the government to augment its support toward the program, which is said is restoring the hope of women and girls, who were once ostracized by their community and loved ones.
Speaking earlier, the head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Liberia Ms. Ratidzai Ndhlovu said the main cause of fistula among women and girls in Liberia is teenage pregnancy.
Ms. Ndhlovu stated that child marriage was one of the issues that lead women and girls to end up with fistula and that her organization—UNFPA wants to broaden its fistula program, which would include integrating it with preventive methods.
"Child marriage, it is because of these issues that we end up with a fistula, because they are too young to be pregnant," the UNFPA boss emphasized.
She stated that as they integrate the preventive method in their fistula program they intend on concentrating on adolescent pregnancy, “because that is where the whole problem comes from.”
The United Nations Senior Staff said by integrating family planning into the program, it will lessen the burden on the only doctor performing the surgery in Liberia.
She used the occasion to thank the visiting Zonta delegation. "I must say, I'm so impressed that Sonia, you were ready to go out into the fields and go up and down the rugged roads, and be able to see for yourself what is on the ground."
Ms. Ndhlovu further intoned that the one cannot measure the success of any program by only reading the document. “You have to go out and talk to the survivors; talk to them, listen to their stories, see the changes in their lives. I want to say a big thank you to Zonta International for the support you have been giving to this program."
"Your support has touched the lives of many women and girls in this country and we appreciate it and I'm sure that the government of Liberia appreciates this support."
She also thank Dr. John Mulbah and others on the Liberia Fistula Project Team for their dedication on the team; adding: “You don't work for remuneration, you work for the satisfaction of saving lives and giving dignity to these girls and women.”
Also speaking earlier, Zonta's vice president, Ms. Sonja Honig Schough told the audience that she was impressed with the level of care given fistula patients in Liberia. She said the level of attention given to women with the condition is “remarkable.”
Recounting her experience Ms. Schough said: "I have met several survivors; I would say many survivors more than I had expected to see. I have had a wonderful experience. I have had the possibility to see the three centers of excellence for fistula care."
She said it was very expedient that she came to Liberia to experience firsthand some of the challenges that are being faced in Liberia.
Ms. School who was visiting Liberia for the first time said her organization Zonta International is an international organization with a membership of about 3000 women, who mainly support the cause of women worldwide.
"It is all these members that are donating to the fistula project as most of them are women, it is very easy to understand these problems, even if we don't have them in Europe or in the U.S. to a very big extent," she said.
The Zonta VP expressed her excitement the level of work she was able to see around the country.
She told news men and woman that she was convinced that the organization's funding is being put to the right use and she pledged more support to the fight against fistula.
"I saw the centers of excellence and I saw the rehabilitation center and I saw the enthusiasm and the professionalism of all the staff involved," she said.
The Zonta VP, who visited the Phebe and Liberia Government Hospitals in Bong and Bomi Counties, said she was very pleased with this visit. “I have seen more than I've expected. It has been a very organized trip with programs all the time, which I really like."
UNFPA Liberia Representative thanked Zonta International for the level of support given to the UN organization to fight fistula worldwide.
Zonta International is an international service organization with the mission of advancing the status of women.
The first Zonta Club was founded in Buffalo, New York in 1919 by a group of business women and was organized along the lines of the Rotary Club, with one woman from each business classification admitted to the local club and all members required to give 60% of their time to the work under which they are classified.
What Is Fistula?
As defined by Dr. Mulbah: “Fistula is the wrong communication between two or more organs that will lead to the leakage of fluid; usually it is urine commonly called pepe or it is feces, commonly called pupu.”
He stated that if the communication is between the bladder and the vagina, it leads to vesico-vagina fistula or the pepe sickness because it is urine that is involved.
“It the communication is between the rectum and the vagina, it leads to what is called recto-vagina fistula.
Fistula can cause involuntary passage of urine and feces by its sufferers. A woman with fistula can feel the urge to urinate or toilet. Both just come out anywhere at any time, leaving the woman very embarrassed and shame.