Oil giant Chevron has given a grant of US$65,000 to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOSHW) to be used for the rehabilitation of some of the facilities that are being used by fistula survivors housed on the Phebe Hospital Compound.
The signing of the MOU for the money took place over the weekend at the Health Ministry, between the MOH and Chevron.
Part of the money would be used in building new structures so that Phebe Hospital in Bong County can have “excellent” fistula facilities in Bong County, Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said. The houses that are now being used by the fistula survivors were built by the Lutheran World Federation more than 35 years ago. The fistula center, which is now situated at Phebe, used to be in a private facility owned by Dr. John Mulbah, who is the lead surgeon on the Liberia Fistula Rehabilitation Team. Since the center was moved to Phebe Hospital it is being managed by the Medical Director of Phebe Hospital, while Dr. Mulbah, also an advocate for women, still serves as the chief surgeon.
At the signing ceremony, Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. (MD) Walter T. Gwenagali thanked Chevron Liberia Limited for contributing to Liberia’s health care delivery program. He jokingly told the Chevron County Manager: “Since you are not pumping out oil yet, we will accept this, but when you do start to pump oil, please increase this amount.”
Karl Cottrell, Country Manager for Chevron Liberia, indicated that until a few years ago he knew nothing about Fistula. What is most saddening about the condition, he said, is the rejection the women suffer from their husbands and the social stigma the women must endure. He expressed the hope that the funding would help reintegrate women back into their families and society.
Fistula funding in Liberia has been largely provided by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); especially the Phebe Fistula Center. UNFPA Liberia’s office has always stated that fistula can be ended in Liberia and has worked towards that. Obstetric Fistula, the kind prevalent in Liberia, only affects women, especially teenagers, who experience prolonged labor when they deliver their babies. Women with Obstetric Fistula involuntarily discharge urine and feces, thereby leading to their humiliation (shame) by community members.