Nigeria is on track to replace the USA as the 3rd most populous country by 2060, with over 450 million people. At present, only 1/5 of Nigerian women have access to family planning services.
Family planning services are key to avoiding pregnancies that can lead to fistula.
Obstetric fistula is basically a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder caused by prolonged obstructed labor – leaving a woman incontinent of feces or urine or both.
Typically such women face ostracism by their children, husband, family and community. Child brides are at special risk. Successful repair can reverse the fate of a mother - freeing her to rejoin her family and once more contribute to her community.
The FON FC+ Initiative focuses on communicating and motivating women to seek reproductive health services and to locate and support women with fistula to seek first-rate surgery.
Community-based organizations train a cadre of community volunteers that hold meetings for influential leaders, villagers and follow-up home visits to spread the word about where to access maternal health services, including fistula care.
We measure our success by the number of: 1) women and men who learn about the benefits of fistula care and family planning; 2) women with obstetric fistula who seek surgery; and 3) village volunteer motivators trained.
Donors to the FC+ Initiative can thus contribute directly to rescuing individual mothers from ostracism, as well as raising awareness of the benefits of family planning for families and communities, and in the longer term, for the rapidly-growing nation.
FON has been providing grant support to Daughters of Virtue and Empowerment Initiative (DOVENET) to expand community mobilization in 5 Local Government Areas in Ebonyi State, SE Nigeria, from March through July, 2018.
· Nearly 80% of FON’s $10,000 contribution to date has been used to raise awareness about fistula care and reproductive services.
· DOVENET reached over 32,000 men and women of reproductive age (21,276F, 10,857M) through training of stakeholders (volunteers, community leaders, religious leaders, health providers) and home visits, family planning sessions, town hall meetings, community dialogues and distribution of materials.
· FON’s contributions also helped train 45 volunteers to participate in these efforts.
· During this time, 32 fistula positive-screened clients have been identified for referral to NOFIC, the fistula facility in Abakaliki. Only 11 received treatment and surgery due to a strike at the Abakaliki medical center. But numbers are increasing in June now that the strike has ended. During June, 13 clients were identified and 9 repaired compared to the month of May when only 2 clients were identified.
Leverage and replication
FON is currently looking to leverage the FC+ initiative further by partnering with Nigerian-American associations in the USA and women’s groups in Nigeria.
FON’s challenge is to replicate the successful model of low-cost village-based FC+ communication and motivation being implemented by FON’s local partner DOVENET in communities in Ebonyi State to other states.