Africa Media Network reporter Ouma Wanzala writes that 7,000 new cases of obstetric fistula occur each year in Kenya alone. Dr. Hillary Mabeya, one of the country’s few specialists in obstetric fistula, explains that only 400 of these women receive treatment for the severe medical condition that often emerges after traumatic or failed childbirth. In order to avoid recurrence, all women who have experienced obstetric fistula in the past should give birth by cesarean section. However, this prevention strategy is simply not an option for many Kenyan women. The fee for a cesarean section in a government-run hospital is roughly 3,000 Kenyan shillings, and due to the steep price, many women still opt for a risky vaginal delivery.
Dr. Mabeya stresses that the solution is to lower the cost of cesarean section delivery, particularly in rural areas of the country. Pre-natal care and delivery within a health facility by a trained birth attendant can prevent obstetric fistula for the women of Kenya, but only if they can afford and access such treatment. The impact of user fees or copayments on health is an urgent human rights issue.