Friday, August 28, 2009

Hospital treating Fistula patients

Listening to Hope FM radio today at around midday, I realized they had a very interesting topic in their discussion and guests. The discussion was on Fistula a condition that many people do not know about and those suffering from it have suffered in silence for a long time, because of the condition it puts them in.

The guests talking on Fistula were Dr. Kiiru a Gynecologist and Surgeon, a survivor Silvia and a representative of Jamaa hospital Sister Charity where operations on Fistula patients are done. I was keen to know about this condition that many women have suffered from in silence and was glad it was brought on air. Dr. Kiiru explained that Fistula is an abnormal hole in the birth canal of a woman. This condition is caused mainly by child delivery, when something goes wrong during birth.

Other causes are accidents causing fracture on the pelvis, cancer of the cervix, ulcers in the birth canal when the wound is left unattended. Abortion is also another cause and also when surgery of the pelvis is not done well. However, 80% of cases in Kenya are due to delivery for example during prolonged labor a woman under poor medical care, especially those who deliver at home are at a higher risk of getting Fistula.

Fistula is a very serious condition that mostly affects women. It is so embarrassing because it causes frequent dripping of urine and in other cases leaking of stool. Patients have to use sanitary pads everyday. Silvia who has survived Fistula after undergoing an operation at Jamaa Hospital told listeners that she could use up to 10 pads in a day. Patients from poor background are not in a position to buy sanitary pads and have to use pieces of clothes. The Doctor talked of patients traveling from the rural areas with bags full of clothes to change every time they go to the toilet. I was surprised to hear men can also get Fistula when they get involved in an accident or a fall that can injure their private parts. There are also those born with the condition which is called congenital fistula.

Other causes of fistula are traditional practices such as early marriage, where early childbirth can cause this condition because the girls’ pelvis is not yet mature. FGM is also another cause of this condition. Poverty and lack of education is another cause when women deliver at home under unskilled attendants. Malnourished patients due to poverty are at risk of getting this condition when the patient’s body is poorly formed.

Patients with Fistula are stigmatized by the society. This is why many people do not know about it, because many patients rarely talk about their conditions for fear of stigma. They avoid being in public for fear of smelling urine or stool and having to rush to the toilet frequently. Apart from smelling it causes limping in patients, ulcers in the private parts, isolation many have been neglected and some divorced by their husbands. Hence patients apart from suffering from the medical conditions, they suffer from psychological feelings that can make them suicidal.

I was really touched by Silvia’s story, she is lucky to have got help through the hospital after watching a documentary on TV and her husband stood by her all the time. Dr. Kiiru said he is one of the only three surgeons of Fistula in the country. This is shocking because there are many surgeons in the country but only three for this serious condition and all are based in Nairobi. There is need for more Doctors to be trained so that patients do not have to travel all the way to Nairobi for treatment in their embarrassing condition.

They appealed to people to enlighten the society so that those suffering can seek help. The condition is curable through surgery which costs Kshs.50,000 (and above depending on the condition) at Jamaa Hospital. Since this is not affordable to most poor people who are the majority, they hospital gets sponsors to pay for the patients trip to and from Nairobi and the surgery cost. They have sponsors like Safaricom and Freedom from Fistula Foundation that is working hard to help clear this condition, amongst others.

Jamaa Hospital is situated in Eastland part of Nairobi. One can get there by public means using matatu (minibus) no. 23. They have two hotlines for patients to call which are 0718100000 and 0737100800.

Help save Fistula patients.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Kenya’s National Census (normally done every 10 years) has begun this evening, Kenyans all over the country and in other parts of the world will be counted. Tomorrow has also been declared a public holiday for the activity to continue. It is a tough exercise because the officers have to count everyone in the homes, the streets, those working, traveling, those still in the camps (IDPs) and Kenyans in the Diaspora. The number of questions this time are so many, unlike the previous years, this time I notice from the adverts and news the questions are more, they even ask if one has internet services in the house, access to computer, how many mobile phones, other electronic gadgets and many other questions.

This time round the issue of tribe has been such a contentious one, some Kenyans felt it should be left out in the questions or the results of the number of each tribe should not be published. This was never an issue before but now that everything is politicized and tribalism being a major cause of post-election violence, it has become a sensitive matter. On the other hand I am curious to know the number of each tribe and I believe there are Kenyans like me who would like to know, which is the largest and where does mine rank. If the Kikuyu are the majority and the Ogiek and the minority that is a fact, why should we hide? We just need to accept one another as Kenyans whether our tribe is the majority or the minority and not politicize the issue. It also helps in the study of the country and in school on subjects like Social studies. Gone are the days when National Census were manipulated for political reasons and we shouldn’t avoid important information because of what happened in the past.

However there are Kenyans who have issues with the Census, the amount being spent on the exercise some feel it is not necessary and should have been used to save millions who are starving due to drought. Even after government assuring of Security at night, many still will not open their doors in the night for fear. Some cite traditional beliefs that they cannot be counted because of various reasons: one that annoyed me is that of some tribes like the Pokot say they consider Women as children and should be counted as children.

Lastly I feel the exercise will be a very tedious one since the population has increased over the last 10 years, the questions are more and questionnaires to fill. The officers will face many obstacles especially in the areas with people of different beliefs and complaints. The other issue is the illegal immigrants in the country, majority of them Somalis, how will they ascertain who are the Somali’s of Kenya and who are not. NTV this month showed how fake documents like; driving license, passports, birth/death certificates and academic certificates are made in the back streets of Nairobi. I believe many illegal immigrants now have the necessary documents that it would be difficult to know which ones are genuine.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Crisis in Kenya

One time I told a neighbor that we need to plant trees on our compounds. The neighbor refused saying roots of trees planted on small pieces of land can cause the walls of houses to crack, because their roots can spread and get to the foundation of the house. I did not want to accept this theory and advised that one can plant trees that do not have long roots and went ahead to plant trees on our plot. I like a green compound with trees because it is a sign of life, many people prefer to plant flowers and crops on their land instead of trees.

Planting trees and conserving our environment is a big issue now in Kenya. Many people had the mentality of my neighbor that trees are not good in town houses even where there is enough space. Others feel they better cut trees and plant crops on their farms. Yes it is good to have farms with crops but cutting trees in the process is what has caused a major crisis in Kenya now. Mau forest is such a good example of the consequences of cutting trees in the forest to create space for farming, making homes and burning charcoal.

Now we are faced with the terrible consequences of depletion of forests in the country, there has been insufficient rains, rivers are running dry so now many Kenyans and animals are dying of hunger, suffering from malnutrition. Water problem is now a big issue, taps are dry people have to buy water from vendors, the government has no alternative but to dig bore holes even in the city. Due to less water in the dams we now faced power rationing and high cost of living. When we were young we used to be told “In the year 2000 the country will have all infrastructure in place, there will be tapped water in all homes and electricity”. The story now is different; it is now vision 2030 and at this rate I doubt whether there will be a major difference.

This is why people must vacate Mau Forest to pave way for planting of trees, it is a bitter pill to swallow for innocent wananchi (citizens) who were duped by the former long serving government KANU, they will loose their homes but they would rather move on to save millions of Kenyan from worse crisis.