Original Research

Factors that impact the timely treatment of obstetric fistulas in Malawi: The perspective of health care providers

Mwawi S. Gondwe, Pranitha Maharaj
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 11, No 1 | a1900 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v11i1.1900 | © 2019 Mwawi S. Gondwe, Pranitha Maharaj | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 July 2018 | Published: 30 April 2019

About the author(s)

Mwawi S. Gondwe, School of Built Environment and Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Pranitha Maharaj, School of Built Environment and Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


Background: In sub-Saharan African countries, women face a high risk of obstetric fistulas. In Malawi, the prevalence rate is 1 per 1000 women. Studies suggest that several obstacles exist that prevent obstetric fistula patients from getting timely treatment for their condition.

Aim: The aim of this article was to find out the factors that delay the timely treatment of obstetric fistula patients at Malawian hospitals.

Setting: The study was conducted at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, a referral hospital, situated in Blantyre, Malawi, and the findings have been generalised to all the hospitals in Malawi.

Methods: An exploratory case study, employing key interview questions, was used to provide insights into why there are delays in providing treatment and care for fistula patients. Purposive sampling technique was used to identify study respondents. Key informant interviews were conducted with 16 health care personnel at a hospital in Malawi.

Results: The presence of numerous cases of complicated obstetric fistula cases overwhelms the health care system in Malawi. In addition, the severe shortage of staff, lack of obstetric fistula surgery training, low staff morale, inadequate infrastructure or equipment and water scarcity in the city of Blantyre contribute towards delayed treatment of fistulas at the hospitals.

Conclusion: The presence of numerous cases of obstetric fistulas is overwhelming health services, and hence there is a need for devising and implementing health policies that will motivate Malawian health personnel to undertake obstetric fistula surgery and care.


obstetric fistulas; maternal health; obstetric care; delayed treatment; obstructed labour; social isolation


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Crossref Citations

1. Quality of Life among Obstetric Fistula Patients at Kitovu Mission Hospital: A Health Facility-Based Cross-Sectional Study in Masaka District, Uganda
Samuel Kakembo, Christine Atuhairwe, Ivan Mugisha Taremwa
Obstetrics and Gynecology International  vol: 2020  first page: 1  year: 2020  
doi: 10.1155/2020/7953915