Rwandan Doctors Trained aboard the Africa Mercy

In June 2010, the Fistula Care project collaborated with the Kanombe Military Hospital (KMH) to support a Rwandan medical team’s travel to Togo for advanced training on obstetric fistula surgery onboard the hospital ship Africa Mercy. In 2010, in addition to the Rwandan team, Fistula Care also supported the training of teams from Benin and Nigeria, with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funds this year. Dr. Tekle G. Egiziabher, an obstetrician and fistula surgeon, Ms. Clarisse Umubyeyi, a theater nurse, and Mr. Jean de Die Hagumu, a ward nurse, all trained for two weeks.

The goals of the training were to develop skills to provide fistula surgery, treat potential complications, and follow up with recovering patients. The team also wanted to gain these skills so that they may train more doctors, anesthetists, and nurses to treat the condition. Throughout the training, Dr. Egiziabher performed 12 operations himself and assisted on care for 18 other patients. Umubyeyi scrubbed and participated in more than 18 operations for fistula repair. During his time in training, de Dieu Haguma focused on postoperative care for fistula patients in the wards of the Africa Mercy.

Dr. Steven Arrowsmith, an American expert fistula surgeon, provided training for the group. Dr. Arrowsmith has performed surgery in Ethiopia, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, and elsewhere, and he serves as a consultant on the Fistula Care project. The Rwandan team learned alongside the diverse Africa Mercy staff, which includes doctors, nurses, and anesthetists from more than 30 countries.

At nearly 500 feet long, with a crew capacity of 474, the Africa Mercy is the largest charity hospital ship in the world. It is run by the faith-based nonprofit Mercy Ships and contains six operating theaters, intensive care and recovery wards, and beds for 78 patients.

The team expressed their gratitude to EngenderHealth and Kanombe Hospital for enabling them to travel to the ship for training. Dr. Egiziabher commented that “since obstetric fistula is a major public health problem and is on the rise, more doctors, anesthetists, and nurses should be trained to provide quality services.” He also noted that “such training will go a long way in serving women suffering from vesico-vaginal fistula.”