Actor John Dumelo has been endorsed as the Ambassador of Obstetric Fistula by the Ministry of Health and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to help raise awareness for the fight against fistula in the country.
By his endorsement, Mr Dumelo is also to help raise funds to treat and rehabilitate poor and vulnerable women who have been afflicted with fistula in their quest to give birth.
Obstetric Fistula is one of the most devastating medical disabilities afflicting women as a result of complications arising from lack of surgical intervention for prolonged labour.
It occurs as a result of a hole that develops between the vagina, rectum and or bladder due to prolonged or obstructed labour.
Affected women leak either urine or faeces or both through the birth canal leaving them socially isolated in most instances.
Obstetric is a known global problem but is especially common in developing countries including Ghana, particularly in communities where female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced.
At the endorsement ceremony, Professor Anyetei Lassey, the Chairman of the National Taskforce in charge of Fistula, thanked Mr Dumelo for agreeing to become ambassador to assist in raising awareness and funds to care for the many victims of fistula in rural communities in Ghana.
He said because of the uncontrolled leakages of urine and faeces, fistula victims were usually shunned by their husbands, families and close relatives and for Actor Dumelo to lead the campaign, it would empower all people, especially men, to be sympathetic towards their wives and support them to seek care and rehabilitation.
Mr Alex Segbefia, the Health Minister, whilst commending UNFPA and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) for the efforts in fighting fistula, including roping in celebrities, he said more education and awareness needed to be carried out all over the country, particularly in communities that practiced FGM, to sensitise the women on the disease and its prevention.
He said the fight against fistula had become challenging as there were limited obstetricians and gynaecologists in the country that could treat and repair fistula cases.
Another issue is how to rehabilitate and reintegrate survivors of fistula into the communities, Mr Segbefia said and lauded Mr Dumelo for accepting to help raise funds, among other things, to rehabilitate such women to lead their normal lives.
Dr Gloria Quansah-Asare, the Deputy Director-General of GHS, described fistula as a women’s issue or problem that could be prevented by women seeking good health care while pregnant and by practicing family planning.
She said more people should lend a hand in the fight against fistula and help address the plights of women.
Dr Babatunde Ahonsi, the UNFPA Country Representative, said a recent survey carried out by the UNFPA revealed that about 1,352 new fistula cases develop in Ghana each year with just a few being treated.
He said it was sad that fistula, which is preventable, was still occurring in Ghana, which by African standards, has a very robust health care system, adding; “despite the many achievements much more need to be done in the fight against fistula”.
He said stakeholders must work to ensure that no woman or girl lived with fistula, saying; “we need to prevent child marriages, teenage pregnancy, and lack of access to health care system”.
Mr Dumelo said he accepted to be ambassador to fight fistula because it was degrading for womanhood, adding; “we all need to fix the problem”.
He said he would first produce a 15 to 20 minutes documentary and a skit cartoon that would be aired on television and social media to educate people on fistula as well as raise funds to support the surgery and integration of fistula survivors into the society.