DOVENET, through her concerted effort to curb the issue of fistula among women in the rural areas, has continued her partnership with the Friends of Nigeria (FON). With the support from FON, DOVENET, in the month of March 2020, implemented preventive and treatment programs on fistula in two local government areas of Ebonyi State, Ikwo and Ohaukwu LGAs. DOVENET created structures in the communities which has greatly helped in carrying out her activities that are set to achieve the goals and objectives of the fistula project. These activities include town hall meetings, community dialogue, home visits, church outreaches, and review meetings in the two LGAs of implementation. Those who participated in these meetings and outreaches include the DOVENET staff, Ward Development Communities (WDCs), Traditional Leaders, Health Community Chiefs, Youth Leaders, Women Leaders, Health Communities, Traditional Birth Attendants, School Teachers/Principals and members of the community.
AT the end of the months’ activities, 6 fistula clients were identified out of which 5 clients mobilized were repaired and 1 deferred. Also, there was a commitment from individuals (men inclusive) and groups to improve on the family planning and fistula prevention and treatment with commitments for continued dissemination of information to communities. Strategies and ideas to improve project implementation were shared. There was also an increase in awareness of family planning and fistula prevention, treatment and re-integration.
Town Hall Meeting
The Town Hall Meetings were conducted in Igweledoha community of Ohaukwu LGA and Oron-Amagu community of Ikwo LGA in Ebonyi state. The meeting took a different dimension as data were analysed and issues observed during the last implementation were discussed.
From the maternal health’s response in the state, it was gathered that social and gender norms are greatly affecting women’s access to health facilities which forces them to patronize traditional birth attendance. More so, as a result of poor economic status of these communities, early marriage has been on the rise and has become the order of the day as young girls of ages 13 to 15 are given out for marriage. This results in an increase in the incidence of fistula in these communities.
Community dialogue has been an integral strategy in the implementation of fistula program as it has helped in putting community leaders/stakeholders into joint action for mobilization of affected women. It has also helped in addressing men’s issues as it affects health decision making.
The community dialogues were held in four (4) communities: Umuogudoakpu, Okwor-Ngbo, Abina, and Okpoitumo communities. The challenges and issues surrounding gender and social norms, poor access to health facilities were discussed along with other health issues.
In the course of the meeting DOVENET sensitized those present on the need to avoid stigmatization for fistula patients and other women facing other maternal health issues, rather they should support in helping such an individual in accessing care and treatment and other health services. Issues addressing barriers that prevents community members from accessing maternity care and family planning services from an equipped facility was resolved. There was room for more collaboration from the committees as they play a significant role in the dissemination of information of control and prevention of fistula in their communities.
At the end of the dialogues conducted in the various wards and LGAs of implementation, DOVENET recorded a number of women of reproductive age who were ready to access immediate family planning services and also women already facing the challenges of fistula. A total of 284 persons were reached (116 male, 168 female)
This activity was anchored by the DOVENET program officer with the objective of building the capacity of WDCs on quality program implementation using the community home visit registers. The platform was used to monitor how key messages are communicated by each volunteer to the household in the two LGAs visited. The trained WDCs/CV reached 180 households and 629 persons through the home visit which was aimed at monitoring the pregnant mothers, promote family planning among members of the household and reach them with fistula preventive messages, availability of care, treatment and support services. Also, 18 pregnant mothers were recorded and 8 identified with pelvic organ prolapse (POP).
DOVENET’s implementing team paid a visit to St. Michael Catholic Church and Assemblies of God Church in Obeagu and Okwor-Ngbo communities of Ikwo and Ohaukwu LGAs respectively. The purpose of the visit was to reach out to majority of the community members with fistula care preventive measures and availability of access of care, dangers of female genital mutilation (FGM), family planning,, etc. Women who are affected by these stigma were asked to be identified and referred to ensure repair. 609 persons (201 male & 408 female) in total were reached with the fistula message.