During a recent trip in June 2013 to Wamba, Oriental Province, a mobile urogynecology surgery team from HEAL Africa completed 103 repairs of vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF) and recto-vaginal (LIF). Among the treated patients, there were two Pygmy women. This is the first time that Pygmy women have benefitted from a fistula repair, based on over 10 years of HEAL Africa experience in this field. Many of these fistulas resulted from difficult births (dystociques deliveries) and also poor surgical methods at local level. For a long time the local communities believe that Pygmy women have easy births despite their short size and their custom is to deliver without qualified medical assistance.
The mobile surgical team was overwhelmed during the 3 weeks at the bedside of women suffering from fistula in this corner of Eastern Province where the number of caregivers qualified is very limited, acknowledged the surgeon gynecologist, Dr. Justin PALUKU, Wednesday 03 July, a few days after his return from mission.
These two exceptional cases of Pygmy women were identified and treated because “before our arrival in this territory located 121 km from Isiro, there was a wide awareness campaign by the Zone de santé de Wamba”, said Dr. Justin, gynecologist-obstetrician and Genitourinary fistula repair expert.
The indigenous pygmy people are the original occupants of Congo according to the history of the country. But since their existence they are considered to be sub human by many, and are often victims of discrimination. Neglected, they live far from other communities and from the general reference hospital of Wamba, in an area devoid of hospitals and all health facilities.
Based on this first experience of treatment of fistula due to difficult births among Pygmies, HEAL Africa has realized that these cases are rarely treated because no one else is providing this service.
Fistula repairs are seen as a new beginning for the patients who suffer from fistulas:
“It is incredible for me, a wife, to be without blemish. I had never believed I would be healed; this is what justifies my endless joy” smiling Ms. M.I. aged 28 years, one of the Pygmy women who was repaired in Wamba in June 2013.
Despite 103 made repairs, the mobile clinic team had to leave many other cases pending due to lack of medicines and other medical equipment. They were also unable to bring back two women who had urgent repair needs (LIV). The facilities in Wamba were not adequate to do these surgeries there.
The need are not only to repair the fistula cases in rural areas where many women are abandoned without hope of assistance but also to prevent this condition by initiating safe motherhood programs (MMR) in this part of the country, since more than 90% * of the cases of fistula are obstetric.
* Figure based on the 400 repair of fistula in 2012 by HEAL Africa