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A Worthy Cause

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In 2007 when Governor Martin Elechi became the governor of Ebonyi State, it was to the admiration of many who were born and raised in the state. There was a general feeling of hope, and acceptability among the people. Yes, the people were optimistic that their problems were over with a true father figure at the helm of affairs in the state.

Not only had that, the wife of the governor, Josephine, in the past had shown herself to be a compassionate woman. So for the citizens, it was double celebration.

Indeed, the expectations of the people are almost realised in all sectors. Now, Ebonyians are counting not only the gains of the state creation but the impacts already made by their governor.

However, beside the huge success stories of Elechi led administration, there is a virtuous First Lady, Josephine, whose own achievements know no bound. While the programmes of Elechi are enjoyed mostly in the state, his wife has saved numerous lives of mainly children and mothers in Ebonyi and across the country through her pet project, Mother and Child Care Initiative (MCCI).

This initiative, formed in 2007, was aimed at fostering partnerships across a broad spectrum of stakeholders for the promotion of the survival of mothers and children.

So the vision was clear from the beginning. It was to facilitate the creation of an optimised environment that will allow for the attainment, fulfilment and self-actualisation of the Ebonyi woman and child.

In spite of the short period, there have been positive outcomes as the number of antenatal care attendances has geometrically increased. And humanity will ever remain grateful to the First Lady for saving many women from societal dehumanisation, dejection and divorce as a result of stink smell of fistula disease.

Really, when people suffering from Fistula disease are abandoned by their families, because of the unbearable putrid smell, as a result of uncontrollable urine and faeces, Mrs. Elechi will take them up to give them a new lease of life.

It is undeniable that there have been previous intervention programmes in the state initiated by her predecessors, but the intervention of Mrs Elechi seems outstanding and generally acceptable.

The Federal government and international organisations like USAID and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have in the past cheered and endorsed Mrs. Amaechi’s effort by providing her support to help save more lives, as many out of frustration and negligence have died as a result of the disease.

For her work, Mrs Elechi who is the Chairman, Governing Board, National Fistula Centre, Abakaliki and Chairman National Fistula Working Group in Nigeria, has been recognised.

And because of the impacts and services being undertaken by the Ebonyi State Fistula Centre, the Federal government, in 2008, took over the burden and named it South East Fistula Centre.

At first, people were in denial about the disease. Most people in the state did not consider fistula to be a local problem, until a surgeon, Dr Sunday Adeoye carried out screening campaigns around the state and, to the shock of many, over 400 women living were found to be living with fistula in seven local government areas.

It is estimated that approximately 11 per cent of maternal deaths are due to obstructed labour. It is also known that obstructed labour and lack of access to Emergency Obstetric Care are the main causes for obstetric fistula.

So based on the impacts of the services rendered by MCCI, the state House of Assembly quickly enacted a law backing most of it activities. The law has debarred prolonged labour in excess of three days. The law is called Mother and Child Care Initiative and related Matters Law, 2008. The law mandates any midwife or caregiver to immediately refer cases of labour up to ten hours to a higher level of medical care.

Mostly evident in rural areas, an obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labour, leaving a woman incontinent of urine or faeces or both.

For women with obstructed labour, that is labour that goes unattended, the labour can last up to six or seven days. That labour produces contractions that push the baby’s head against the mother’s pelvic bone. The soft tissues between the baby’s head and the pelvic bone are compressed and do not receive adequate blood flow.

The lack of blood flow causes this delicate tissue to die and where it dies, holes are created between the labouring mother’s bladder and vagina and/or between the rectum and vagina, this causes fistula. And it mostly occurs among women who live in rural areas, who give birth without any access to medical help.

In the past, women with fistula disease faced ejection from her matrimonial home. They are pushed out of the community in order to isolate them due to their foul smell. But that has changed since the inception of the fistula centre in 2008.  For a statistics, over 356 uterine prolapse patients have been treated and discharged from the centre.

The centre has also treated and discharged over 1,726 Vesco Vagina Fistula patients across the country free of charge.
One of the discharged patients, Mrs Jane Ekoyo said she had 15 pregnancies with the first one that resulted into fistula when she was at the age of 15.

Another victim, Grace Ugwuoma Ewa said she lived with fistula disease for 45 out of the 65 years she had lived.
She said her problem started at the age of 20 when during her second pregnancy she went to fetch firewood despite the onset of labour pains. The pains worsened in the bush and there was not one to help her or even locate where she was. She lost the baby and her capacity to urinate efficiently and controllably.

The patients, according to the management, are cared for without charges.
At the time of discharge from the centre, every woman receives a package containing a bag of rice, a piece of cloth material and cash to help them to pay for transport.

During one of the occasions of the discharge of repaired patients, Mrs Elechi said,“the free repairs exercise is necessitated by my feelings of compassion for the ugly plight and societal dehumanisation suffered by VVF/uterine prolapse victims as a result of their condition”.

“The routine fistula repairs always give me joy as I see these women who were earlier abandoned, rejected and ridiculed by the society. I am happy to see them wearing smiles of joy as a result of their new look while looking forward to rejoicing with their families”.

She added: “You will agree with me that the worst form of gender-based violence is being suffered by VVF/ uterine prolapse victims as a result of ostracisation. It is necessary for concerted efforts to be made by everyone. Good spirited individuals, governmental and non-governmental agencies to curb increasing cases of gender-based violence”.

Identifying gender-based violence, the Mrs. Elechi has advocated stiffer penalty for rapists to serve deterrent to others, which often lead to early pregnancy that causes the fistula in women.

She said that stringent measures should be taken to prosecute offenders of child abuse, trafficking and others forms of ill-treatment against African child.

This apart, in Ebonyi State today, the 35 per cent affirmative action is working and realised to the confirmation of the women. The last year’s local government elections in the state witnessed tremendous success story in the agitation of women to be given more chances to truly transform the political fortunes of the country and make the desired difference in politics.

In the election, Mrs Elechi, in her political might and struggle for women, ensured the victory of two council chairmen in the state who are women. They are Mrs Chinyere Nwanoke (Onicha) and Mrs Chinyere Elom (Ohaukwu).

When, eventually the governor dissolved his so referred “personal staff”, the Coordinators of Development Centres, which attracted intense lobbying, the easy-going First lady was relatively calm to many but gently hatching her ambition for women inclusion more than ever.

Although the women have not agitated publicly to be given the chance to rule the state, speculations in some quarters revealed that history may be made in the state in 2015 with a woman elected as deputy governor.

Now, opinions and views in many quarters in the state showed that the Ebonyi first Lady is a rare woman with the passion of a Mother Teresa.

Article Credit: Thisdaylive

Updated 4 Years ago

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Tags:     Governor Martin Elechi     Josephine Elechi     MCCI     Dr Sunday Adeoye     Mrs Jane Ekoyo     Grace Ugwuoma Ewa