Ghana on Tuesday launched an Obstetric Fistula (OF) Prevention and Management Strategic Plan to guide efforts to end the condition among women in Ghana.

To further ensure sustained funding to address the current treatment gaps, the Ministry of Health further commissioned a Seven-Member Fund Management Board, represented by key stakeholder institutions including the Ghana Health Service, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and civil society, to coordinate donations made and also lead in the mobilisation of both domestic and international financing for the treatment.

Madam Otiko Afisah Djaba, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, who launched the document at an event in Accra, to mark the 2017 International Day to End Fistula, commended the United Nations for instituting the occasion to educate the world on the prevalence of OF globally.

She said OF which was an abnormal hole that occurred between the vagina and bladder or the rectum following prolonged labour during childbirth, and causes the woman to leak urine or faeces or both, was increasing in Ghana and was unacceptable.

She said although the National Health Insurance Scheme to an extent covered antenatal, delivery and postnatal care, it does not cover repairs of Of,  it makes it easy for these unfortunate and vulnerable women to go into hiding for fear of social stigma and being ostracized .

She said the development of the five-year Strategic Plan, would clearly articulate how the country intended to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in OF by 2021, by helping to reach and treat women with the condition in communities across the country, to restore their human dignity.

Madam Otiko Djaba also said as the country moved towards universal health coverage, access to essential care for women in pregnancy and childbirth was  placed high on the agenda, and this would ensure that OF was reduced to a near zero occurrence in Ghana.

Dr Gloria Quansah Asare, the Deputy Director General, Ghana Health Service, who represented the Minister of Health, Mr Kweku Manu,  to commission the OF Fund Management Board, acknowledged the great work done by the National OF Task Force that was constituted in 2014 to develop the Plan for the elimination of the condition in the country.

She praised them for their hard work and professionalism, but said there remained much more to be done as the challenge of funding had become a major impediment to providing the needed treatment and care for the large number of OF patients who still awaited surgery.

She thanked the UNFPA and the other development partners for their support over the years, but said the time had come to also mobilize internal funding to complement existing dwindling donor assistance.

Dr Quansah-Asare urged the Board to work assiduously to reach out to all the women who needed help, but were hiding in communities, and appealed to the public to encourage such persons to seek treatment at designated health facilities particularly at the Mercy Hospital in the Central Region.

She also appealed to the media to intensify advocacy and education on OF for the realization of the goals and objects of ending it in Ghana.