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    Women suffering from fistula face divorces

    KABUL (PAN): Women suffering from obstetric fistula are abandoned and divorced by their husbands and forced out of their homes, doctors said on Monday.

    Fistula usually occurs when a woman is in obstructed labor for days on end without medical help and cannot get a Caesarean section. The blood supply to the soft tissues surrounding mother’s bladder, rectum and vagina is cuts off due to the prolonged pressure of the baby's head against the mother's pelvis.

    Doctors say the causes are earlier marriage, frequent births and receiving treatment for the infection from unprofessionals people.

    As many as 300 such patients have so far been treated in the 14-bed centre for bladder fistula at Malai Maternity Hospital in Kabul, according to the Ministry of Public Health.

    Zarin Gul, 35, a resident of eastern Kunar province, said her husband had expelled her from home five months ago. She got infected with the disease after she gave birth to her eighth child three years ago. The fistulization operation was successful, she said.

    "Five months back, my husband expelled me from house, telling me that I'm not recoverable from the disease. Three of our children are with him and three are with me and now I live in a tent in our area," she said.

    Latifa, 20, a resident of northern Balkh province, is another woman, who was divorced by her husband due to the disease. "When I was giving birth to my first child, I went to a midwife in the village. She removed the placenta with a knife," she said.

    "I gave birth to a dead child because the midwife had torn his head with the knife and when I suffered a lot from the disease, I went to hospital, where doctors removed my uterus, and soon after my husband divorced me," she added.

    Currently Latifa is living with her parents. According to Karima Iqbal, a doctor at the hospital, most of the 300 women treated at the centre since its establishment three years, had been divorced by their husbands or expelled from homes.

    She said there was a great need for public awareness programmes about the infection. Asking the health ministry to establish such centres in other provinces, she said in remote areas, women had no access to doctors.

    According to Najibal Yaftali, a health ministry official, a number of awareness programmes had been broadcasted on TV channels to inform people about the disease. Audience were told that the disease could be treated, she said.

    She acknowledged the programmes, which needed financial support, could not resolve the problem. There are 12,000 healthcare centres for pregnant women across the country, with 2,000 clinics providing maternity services.