German State Secretary acknowledges CBM's fight against Fistula in Tanzania

© CBM/Hapuc

German Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Dr. Bärbel Kofler, visited the Comprehensive Community-Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT), a Tanzanian health organisation co-founded by CBM to prevent disabilities.

The organisation provides affordable medical and rehabilitative services to persons with disabilities at its CCBRT hospital in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. CCBRT has also established a hospital for mothers and newborns.

Of particular interest to Dr. Kofler during this visit to the East African country is CBM's work to alleviate the suffering of women with obstetric fistula and women with disabilities.

Dr Kolfer, together with CBM Country Director for Tanzania, Nesia Mahenge, visited the CCBRT Maternity & Newborn Hospital in Dar es Salaam,  where they were introduced to the activities to fight fistula and spoke directly with patients.

The hospital provides skilled maternity care for safe births. The aim is to prevent disabilities through early detection by strengthening the maternal and newborn health system. The maternity hospital also treats complications resulting from prolonged and obstructed labour, including fistula.

With financial support from CBM, CCBRT covered the cost of treatment, accommodation, and food for all patients with obstetric fistula throughout the treatment period.

Dr. Kofler expressed her appreciation for CBM's mandate and its efforts toward disability-inclusive development. She highlighted the strong commitment of the German government to continue supporting inclusive development projects, especially those that empower women and other marginalised groups, including women with disabilities.

Nesia Mahenge stressed the importance of targeted support for persons with disabilities, providing appropriate preventive care, treatment and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities in Tanzania. 

The German government together with Jordan and the International Disability Alliance (IDA) will also host the 3rd Global Disability Summit in 2025, which Dr. Kofler announced during the second summit earlier this year.

Read more about CBM's involvement in the Global Disability Summit 2022 here. 

The burden of fistula in Tanzania 

CBM's work is increasingly important in a country where up to 3,000 Tanzanian women develop obstetric fistula every year.

An obstetric fistula is an injury during childbirth caused by prolonged, obstructed labour. It occurs when the pressure of the baby's head compresses the mother's soft tissue in the birth canal, obstructing blood flow. Without blood, the tissue dies and a hole forms in the genital tract. This condition leads to incontinence when women are not able to control their bladder and bowel movements. The resulting effect is a bad odour which is perceived by some as dirty. As a result, the women are often shunned by their families and communities. They are unable to work or lead a normal life.

Fortunately, fistula is treatable. Unfortunately, many women in Tanzania and sub-Saharan Africa suffer in silence because they do not know where to go for help or because they lack the resources for surgery.

CCBRT supports 6 partner hospitals in Tanzania to make fistula treatment more accessible to all Tanzanian women.

After treatment, women can return to normal life and continue their economic, livelihood and social programmes.

The work of CBM is of interest to Dr. Kofler because the German government through the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), has been providing funds for CBM's work in Tanzania for many years.

Our technical cooperation with BMZ includes support for inclusive eye health, community-based inclusive development, community rehabilitation, education, technical training and health system strengthening.

Currently, BMZ is supporting CBM with funds for the construction of an eye hospital at Bugando Medical Centre in the North-Western of Tanzania and the provision of eye health services at Mvumi Hospital in Dodoma.  The BMZ also supports the training of ophthalmologists, screening and operations.