Ugandans in the diaspora have raised USD 1 million (about Shs 3.5 billion) towards the planned construction of a specialized fistula treatment facility in Uganda.
The facility is a brainchild of The Association for the Re-orientation and Rehabilitation of Women for Development (TERREWODE), a non-government organisation based in eastern Uganda.
Dubbed the TERREWODE hospital & rehabilitation center, the facility will offer psycho-social rehabilitation for survivors of obstetric fistula, a condition caused by prolonged obstructed labour, creating a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder. Fistula sufferers are left with no control over of urine or faeces.
The facility, to be built in Soroti district, will be the first phase of the TERREWODE women's community hospital (TWCH) with a 30-bed treatment block, a 30-bed social reintegration and rehabilitation block and associated support services.
The project requires a total of $725,000 (about Shs 2 billion), according to information obtained from the Uganda Fistula Fund donation website.
TERREWODE, a Ugandan Non-governmental Organization (NGO) that works with obstetric fistula survivors has already purchased the land and commenced the design process for the new hospital.
Speaking to Ugandans attending the Ugandan North American Association (UNAA) Convention in Miami, Florida, the speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga said that the hospital would be the first of its kind on the African Continent.
"In Kampala there are people who don’t understand our work, they complaining about us coming to UNAA…[Ugandans in the diaspora] are going to build a fistula hospital in Soroti - the first of its kind on the African continent. They have raised almost a a million dollars and they are going to start constructing. All that is coming out of the work of UNAA and the Uganda parliament", said Kadaga.
It is hoped that the facility will increase the number of surgeries to 1,000 per year, almost doubling Uganda's current fistula treatment capacity. Currently, a surgical operation to treat fistula is estimated at Shs 2 million, a cost that is prohibitive for a number of patients.
Besides offering cutting-edge treatment to sufferers, the hospital will rebuild the lives of fistula survivors through counselling, health education and training in income generating activities.
Uganda has 25 fistula surgeons across the country with one surgeon in each of the 13 regional referral hospitals to carry out fistula repairs. Additional surgeons are available in seven private, not for-profit hospitals. The shortage has led to a backlog of 200,000 fistula cases, yet an additional 1,900 new cases are recorded every year.
Kadaga described fistula as a disease shrouded in stigma and isolation.
"Fistula is a very difficult issue, it is shrouded by stigma, it is surrounded by isolation [and] not many people are knowledgeable about it. Recently, I saw a man who has lived with his wife for 18 years when she had fistula.
So I said, am going to nominate him for an award of a hero because if he could look after his wife for 18 years without abandoning her until she got treatment, he is real a hero in the year of the family in Uganda. So I have written to the national awards committee to ensure that the man is given a medal for loving his wife and staying with her despite all the problems", she added.
TERREWODE has been working with obstetric fistula survivors in Uganda since 2001 by supporting women to reintegrate into the community after suffering from the traumatic condition. The NGO signed a partnership agreement with the International Fistula Alliance (IFA) to develop the specialist obstetric fistula treatment facility in Soroti, Uganda.
IFA is a representative body of the Hamlin Fistula International partners from Australia, USA, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and New Zealand who currently support the work of the world-famous Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (HFE) founded by Australian doctors Catherine and Reginald Hamlin in 1974.
Over the past 40 years, HFE has been responsible for treating over 50,000 women in Ethiopia and have developed 6 specialist hospitals concentrating on obstetric fistula and other childbirth injuries.
Under the partnership agreement, TERREWODE is the primary implementing partner of the hospital and the IFA, through its members Hamlin Fistula USA and Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (Australia), will provide funding and capacity building for the capital and operating costs of the new hospital whilst Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (HFE) will provide clinical training and support.