Access Bank, UNFPA discusses continued efforts to reduce obstetric fistula cases


…Ghana is estimated to record 1,300 cases every year

By Juliet ETEFE

Access Bank Ghana Plc and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Ghana have reaffirmed their commitment to addressing obstetric fistula in the country.

In a meeting held in Accra, representatives from both organisations discussed their ongoing partnership and strategies to enhance efforts against this debilitating condition.

Globally, it is estimated that about 500,000 women and girls live with fistula with new cases being recorded every year while in Ghana, figures show that about 1,300 cases occur every year.

Head of Corporate Communications and Brand Management at Access Bank Ghana PLC, Oluwaseun David-Akindele in an interview highlighted the bank’s dedication to sustainability, particularly in the health sector.

“Today’s visit with the UNFPA underscores our commitment to sustainability in health. We have been at the forefront of the fight against fistula for the last four years and recently joined Partnership for Elimination of Fistula in Ghana (PEFIG) led by UNFPA and the Office of the First Lady,” he noted.

He added that the Bank’s involvement in the fight against fistula began in 2019 with the launch of the “Fist Against Fistula” campaign, in collaboration with their customers. The initiative has facilitated nearly 200 surgeries in Ghana, positioning it as the largest contributor to fistula surgeries in the country.

Despite this progress, he emphasised that more needs to be done: “We are committed to continuing our efforts until every affected woman is treated and reintegrated into society.”

Executive Director of Wholesale Banking at the Bank, James Bruce, reiterated the importance of awareness and partnerships in reducing fistula cases.

“Progress has been made through UNFPA, Access Bank, the Ministry of Health, the Fistula Task Force, and the Office of the First Lady. However, we must do more. A healthy community is essential for driving sustainable businesses and economic growth in Ghana,” he said.

He noted that moving forward, the bank plans to increase support for fistula repairs and raise awareness through partnerships with organisations and also to raise funds for the initiative.

“We are passionate about supporting women and believe that by raising more funds and awareness, we can make a significant impact on the fight against fistula,” he said.

Obstetric Fistula stems from several factors including protracted childbirth, child marriage and also, lack of skilled midwifery or high-quality maternal care.

Dr. Wilfred Ochan, Country Representative for UNFPA Ghana, provided insights into the progress and challenges in maternal health services noting that professional attendance during delivery has increased to 87%, reducing the risk of fistula.

However, he stressed the need for updated data to accurately assess the current situation and address the backlog of unrepaired cases, estimated to be between 7,000 and 12,000.

“Access to maternal health services has improved significantly, with 87% of women now receiving professional care during delivery. This has reduced the risk of fistula, but accurate data is needed to understand the current situation fully,” Dr. Ochan noted.

Dr. Ochan also expressed concern over the estimated 1,300 new cases of fistula per year, with only 60 to 100 cases being repaired annually. This leaves a significant backlog of unrepaired cases, estimated to be between 7,000 and 12,000.

To this end, he emphasised the need to build the capacity of hospitals and health facilities in high-prevalence areas to address this backlog effectively.

“By enhancing the capacity of five key facilities and setting performance targets, we can significantly increase the number of surgeries performed,” he said.

He also proposed a combination of routine services and outreach programmes to accelerate the reduction of fistula cases. “If we can perform 1,400 surgeries per year, we can address all new cases and begin to reduce the backlog. This requires a strong partnership with the Ghana Health Service and other stakeholders,” he noted.

Through strategic partnerships, increased awareness, and enhanced medical capacity, both organisations aim to make significant strides in eliminating this condition and improving the lives of affected women.

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