FGM, Possible Cause Of Maternal Deaths In Northern Ghana

Madam Kate Bob Milliar, National Director of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, has said the practice of female genital mutilation could be a contributory factor to the high maternal deaths in northern Ghana. She said a survival of female genital mutilation was prone to infections and excessive bleeding during delivery, a situation she explained, could cause complications leading to the death of a mother. Madam Milliar made these remarks when she addressed 226 women drawn from the Wa West and Tuna/Kalba Districts in the Northern Region, at a day’s sensitisation and advocacy durbar on obstetric fistula and female genital mutilation held at Wechau. The National Director urged women to stand against the practice of female genital mutilation, which she said, was the root cause of fistula conditions among women. Madam Milliar reminded the people that there is a law that prohibits the practice of female genital mutilation, and those persons who carry out the cutting, when caught will be punished accordingly. She said people were still carrying out female genital mutilation in the communities, and called for the enforcement of the law in the communities to help reduce the incidence of female genital mutilation. Mr Adamu N.S. Dasaana, Wa West District Chief Executive, said the survivals of obstetric fistula in the district have limited access to health services, including maternal and reproductive health care. He said majority of fistula cases in Ghana came from the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions, registering 53 cases in 2007 and 113 cases in 2012 with 92 underwent medical repairs at the Tamale Teaching Hospital, out of which 81 were successful. He said from 2008 to date, the Upper West Region recorded 134 fistula cases, with 23 coming from the Wa West District. The consequences of fistula are life shattering and invariably leave the survivals ashamed and ostracized, thereby deepening their poverty and magnifying their suffering. The DCE said cultural beliefs and traditional practices prevent women from seeking care at health facilities, and delays in seeking care also prevent many women from receiving services in a timely manner. He appealed to stakeholders, including the family, opinion leaders, traditional rulers, religious bodies, the media, and the government, as well as health practitioners, to play their roles appropriately to promote maternal health. Miss Ibrahim Umuhera Kuurimah, a 24-year survival of female genital mutilation, who shared her experience, said she feels pains anytime she has sexual intercourse, adding that the sustained and sharp pains she endures, discourages her from making boys friends anymore. She said she had gone out with four boys, but they all left her to her fate because she could not bear the pain. She says she is now looking for a man who would marry her for love's sake, but not for sex. Miss Kuurimah, a former level 200 student of the University for Development Studies, has now become an advocate for the abolition of female genital mutilation in the district. But she is faced with stiff opposition from her people, including her parents and some traditional rulers, as well as the youth. Her parents have refused to pay her schools fees, and would only pay the fees if she stopped her advocacy agenda. This has compelled her to stop her university education prematurely, to seek for greener pastures, to be able to continue with her education on her own. Miss Kuurimah is now being pursued spiritually, and on one occasion, she was hit with a “local missile” that nearly caused her leg to develop elephantiasis. According to her, with the help of some people, she has been able to treat her leg, but she still experiences pains on her sole. But Miss Kuurimah who hails from Dorimon in the Wa West District, said despite the threats, she has vowed to use the last ounce of her energy to fight against the practice in the district. Unless I fall dead I will continue to fight the practice to save girls from this inhuman and health-risking practice, which the people cherish just in the name of culture, she assured. The Department of Gender of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection organised the durbar to sensitise and equip participants with relevant knowledge on obstetric fistula, and female genital mutilation. The durbar, which was attended by some traditional rulers and assembly members, discussed the causes, prevention, and treatment of fistula, and the harmful effects of female genital mutilation.