Rabyatou: “I Have Finally Regained My Joy!

After being ostracised for 15 years for suffering from the taboo condition, Vesicovaginal Fistula, VVF, she now has every reason to smile. After successfully undergoing surgery entirely paid for by the United Nations Population, UNFPA.

The world literally crumbled on her 15 years ago when she discovered she no longer had any control over her call-to-nature reflexes. This was after one of her three still birth deliveries. With the last being by caesarean section. Overnight, she realised that those who had hitherto associated with her – confidantes and even close relations – were all gone! Like a dream, people started keeping their distance. For, she had suddenly become an outcast - detested and rejected by her very own people. All this, because she had developed the taboo Vesicovaginal Fistula, VVF condition.

It is a medical condition that occurs, amongst others, as a result of complications during delivery, infections, injuries and inflammation. A vesicovaginal fistula is an opening between the bladder and the wall of the vagina that leaves the victim in the most embarrassing of conditions. As she literally becomes a little baby - passing out stool and urine anywhere, anytime. Leaving her in stench most of the time. According to the 2018 Demographic and Health Survey, DHS, 18,000 women in Cameroon suffer from Vesicovaginal Fistula, VVF. But health facilities operating the service are few.

I was always unhappy. I cried all the time because I was rejected and abandoned to myself. I was always soaked in my own urine and excreta because I could not control myself. Even with diapers, I could still not mix with other people,” recalls Rabyatou, 36, a married woman from Mayo Baleo in Faro and Deo Division of Adamawa Region.

“Only my husband stood by me and encouraged me. He kept making findings where my condition could be treated. Until I was referred to the Ngaoundere VVF Centre by the hospital in Banyo,” Rabyatou explains with an understandable tinge of sadness. “I was always isolated. Even when I prepared food, no one ate it,” she adds.  

“Thank God, I have finally regained my joy after I was operated for the second time. I am so proud of myself!” Rabyatou says with a broad smile as her aunt-caregiver, Haram Koulsoumi, joins in. “She was operated in the Ngaoundere Vesicovaginal Fistula Centre of the Ngaoundere Protestant Hospital in July 2021. But there were complications as urine kept coming out uncontrolled. She had to undergo a second operation, which was successful,” recalls Abbe Genevieve, a nurse with Ngaoundere Protestant Hospital.

Because of a three-year project with Ngaoundere Vesicovaginal Fistula Centre, the United Nations Population, UNFPA bore the whole cost of Rabyatou’s operation and care, worth about 500,000 FCFA! The deal ensures the free treatment of VVF patients by the centre from 2018-2021. So far, 52 patients have been operated, with the ceiling placed at 100 patients this year. As the project also ends this year.

“Prior to 2018, VVF operations in our centre were paid for entirely by patients’ families. The cost was very high – at least 200,000 FCFA; added to transport to hospital, feeding, medication…,” Ngomna Pascal, a senior nurse, medical imagery technician and Discipline Master of Ngaoundere Protestant Hospital, explains.

“Now, UNFPA takes charge of everything. They even distribute food rations and give money for patients’ upkeep while they recover in hospital,” Pascal adds. He however warns that if the project is not extended, the centre will revert to the former practice of patients bearing the entire cost of their treatment.

Founded in 2014, the Vesicovaginal Fistula Centre of the Ngaoundere Protestant Hospital receives patients from all over Cameroon. With a good number also coming from neighbouring Central African Republic, CAR.

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