Following the successful launch of the Zero Fistula Project and the first repair surgery camp held back in September—where 14 women were successfully treated and 20 received consultations–two more camps were organized at the end of December in the regions of Kolda-Sedhiou and Tambacounda-Kedougou in Southern Senegal. A total of 30 women underwent surgery for obstetric fistula:in Kolda-Sedhiou, 36 women received consultations and 25 received repair surgery, while in Tambacounda-Kedougou, seven women received consultations and five received repair surgery.
Before the start of the camps, partners put emphasis on raising awareness about fistula using radio. Field staff appealed to health specialists and religious leaders to help mobilize communities and to discuss the partnership with Amref and the Hospital in Kolda and Dakar. In the five days leading up to the surgery, the women having traveled from different areas were received by the regional Tostan office in Kolda, who used their resources to facilitate a place for them to stay.
Also prior to the camps, several awareness-raising activities, such as intervillage meetings (IVM) and workshops were organized for community members and local authorities. In the Kolda-Sedhiou region, two IVM’s took place on October 31st and December 23rd with 10 communities present and 240 participants, and two additional workshops in November with a midwife. In Tambacounda-Kedougou, two workshops with 86 participants were held in November with the attendance of the health commission of the Community Management Committee (CMC) of Dougue, as well as a health prefect. These workshops taught participants how to identify fistula.
Since September, sensitization on fistula carried out by social mobilization agents (SMA) has reached 179 communities, which is approximately 8386 people. SMA’s are trained on the medical aspects of obstetric fistula such as the causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment, and they often organize community meetings where they can present this information. While women tend to be a majority at these meetings, 2134 men have also participated. Through social mobilization efforts, women gain the courage to speak openly about living with obstetric fistula. As a result of these efforts so far, 68 women have been identified with the condition.
The project coordinator who is in charge of monitoring these events has been able to reach out to and engage with women who are hesitant, and those who live in remote locations difficult to access. Through interviews with patients, they revealed that some husbands accompanied their wives, while others have been abandoned by their spouses. This reinforces the importance of not only providing medical assistance, but also setting up a system that supports women’s reintegration into their communities after surgery.