The US government has launched a $10 million project to provide safe surgeries for women and girls across five states. The project, MOMENTUM Safe Surgery in Family Planning and Obstetrics, aims to build awareness and provide access to high quality surgeries in Bauchi, Kebbi, Sokoto, Ebonyi and the FCT. The surgeries will be “voluntary, indicated and consented”, says Vandana Tripathi, director of the project implemented by Engender Health. From 2005 till 2018, Engender Health implemented two previous projects providing fistula prevention and a combined 18,400 fistula repairs for women across 16 states working through obstetric fistula centres. Both projects also helped train 50 fistula surgeons and over 2,700 health workers in fistula prevention and treatment. They supported the provision of nearly 1.2 million family planning counselling sessions and delivery of over 685,000 couple-years of protection against unintended pregnancy. For MOMENTUM, “We will specifically strengthen the capacity of Nigerian institutions to introduce, deliver, scale-up, and sustain evidence-based prevention and quality treatment of obstetric and iatrogenic fistula, improved availability and quality of safe, indicated cesarean delivery and prevention of female genital mutilation and mitigation of adverse obstetric impacts among women who have experienced female genital mutilation,” said Tripathi.
The MOMENTUM project is among a set of six USAID projects that aim to accelerate reduction in globally maternal, newborn, and child mortality and morbidity in high-burden countries, in strong partnership with country institutions. A sister project, MOMENTUM Country and Global Leadership, is already active in Nigeria. Fistulas are preventable and treatable, but nearly four in every 10 cases of obstetric fistulas globally occur in Nigeria. More than 150,000 women are on waiting lists for repairs, and an estimated 12,000 new cases arise eery year, the National Demographic Health Survey shows. “Women and girls of childbearing age are amongst the most vulnerable Nigerians,” said US ambassador Mary Beth Leonard at the launch. “They are often unable to live a dignified, rewarding life due to this debilitating and stigmatizing health condition.” Dr Zainab Bagudu, first lady of Kebbi—among five states where MOMENTUM will be executed—said, “There is not delight in the fact that women are still suffering from fistula in this time and age in the country. “We cannot avoid not making laws and policies to keep our girl child alive by ensuring they have access to quality healthcare services.” (Daily Trust)