- 25 May
S P E C I A L R E M A R K S Delivered By Honorable Joseph N. Boakai, Sr. Vice President of the Republic Of Liberia On Behalf of Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf President of the Republic of Liberia At the ECOWAS 2017 INTERNATIONAL DAY TO END OBSTETRIC FISTULA
Monrovia City Hall
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Honorable Members of the National Legislature Present;
Esteemed Ministers of Health from the ECOWAS Members States;
Our Illustrious Minster of Health, Dr. Bernice Dahn;
Other members of the Cabinet Present;
Representatives of the Women Health Institutions;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Representatives of our Development Partners;
Our Good Friends of the Press;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
Let me welcome you all to this event, marking the celebration of the International day to End Obstetric Fistula. I, in particular, welcome the ECOWAS officials from Abuja and ECOWAS Gender Development Centre in Dakar to Liberia.
We are here this morning, at this annual event which takes place on the 23rd of May of each year, to renew our resolve to encourage affected women to seek medical attention. Even further, we seek to enlighten members of the society on the positive role they can play towards assisting fistula victims.
You all may be wondering why this event is taking place in Liberia today, a day after it was marked by other countries. The organizers of this event believe that, since this event was launched to cater to victims, especially women, its campaign and advocacy can best be spearheaded by women for the benefit of women.
I must appreciate the ECOWASCommission and, indeed, the ECOWAS Gender Development Centerthat thoughtfully postponed the celebration, primarily to accord our President, the first female elected President to be elected on this Continent, the great honor to chair this very highly significant event.
Though she could not make it to be in your midst this morning, we remain thankful to you for the courtesy. She has me to convey to you her best wishes for a successful and rewarding event.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
We are here today, once again, to commemorate the INTERNATIONAL DAY TO END FISTULA. Being held under the theme, ECOWAS RESTORING HOPE AND DIGNITY FOR FISTULA SURVIVORS, this event brings us here to remind ourselves of the effect and tragic injuries obstetric fistula has inflicted upon our women as they go through childbirth.
You may wish to know that obstetric fistula is a hole that emerges between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum caused by prolonged, obstructed labor without treatment. This illness is prevalent amongst women in developing countries most of whom get pushed by the medical condition to prefer to live in isolation for fear of exposure and the attendant rejection by the society they live in. This situation is more pronounced in those areas where medical facilities are very poor or even almost non-existent. The inaccessibility of medical care further curtails their desire to seek necessary medical attention and care.
Further, there are the socio-psychological effects that fistula imposes on its victims. In most cases, stigma is associated with this condition, and those women suffering from fistula are most times shunned by their families and marginalized by their communities.
Traumatic fistula, as a result of rape, adds to the psychological distress, fear and stigma that follow rape, including the risk of unwanted pregnancy, vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Itdecreases the chances for women to get married, work or participate in the larger community. In the light of the foregoing, the importance of tackling obstetric fistula in our sub-regioncannot be over emphasized as it poses a major setback to the reproductive health of young girls and women.
Esteemed Health Practitioners, Partners;
Obstetric fistula has been a source of continuous concern to the governments in sub-region and, in particular, the Government of Liberia. This is more worrisome considering the number of women suffering from this disease. We, as a Government, cannot allow this to continue.
Towards this end, the Liberian government has formulated policies which are being implemented through the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection, to address the growing number of victims of obstetric fistula. This effort gave birth to the Liberia Fistula Project.
Since 2007, the Liberia Fistula Project has provided life-saving surgery and support services to help re-integrate women into their families and communities. The project is managed by the Ministry of Health, in partnership with UN Population Fund and Zonta International.
More than 1,500 women have undergone surgery and many of them are living productive lives in the communities that once abandoned them. We all can take this as appreciable success.
Let me thus express appreciation to the partnership between UNFPA, ECOWAS and other international Partners that launched the Global Campaign to End Fistula in 2003.
Our Government will remain unrelenting and will continue to address the issue of fistula. In the continuous fight against fistula, two Fistula Centers have been strengthened and equipped in Liberia, one here in the capital, Monrovia, and another in Gbarnga, Central Liberia. To reinforce this fight, six doctors and more than seventy nurses, midwives and physician assistants have been trained. These doctors and nurses have in turn treated 875 fistula patients.
Furthermore, 20 fistula survivors 16 journalists and 10 students have been trained to serve as fistula advocates. They are in the crusade of disseminating information on the causes, preventions and treatment of obstetric fistula as well as equipping victims with the necessary skills for economic empowerment and sustainability. The end sought is to prepare them for both socio-economic re-integration into their communities.
The Government of Liberia has been providing support to women with inoperable fistula cases and those survivors with a degree of continence. Such support has included the provision of medical and material support and access to income-generating activities.Even in the face of all these strides, our Government, remains conscious of the need to do more. And as such, I guarantee you that we shall not rest on our oars.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
Let me thank all those who have contributed to the success story in the fight against fistula in our sub-region, and especially in Liberia. This is the raison d’etrefor ECOWAS financial assistance and other necessary facilities to this process.
Be assured that this will goa long way in providing a decent, productive and dignified life to the women of Liberia.
Bravo to ECOWAS and members states of the Sub-region in our fight against Fistula.
I thank you.