What is Fistula?
More Than an Injury
Obstetric fistula is a devastating childbirth injury caused by prolonged, obstructed labor. It often results in stillbirth, chronic incontinence, spousal abandonment, social stigma, and personal shame. Women living with fistula are often considered “cursed” by their communities because of the lack of education about fistula and how it is caused.
Based on 2016 Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey, population estimates, and the data from Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia hospitals, there could be as many as 40,000 untreated cases of obstetric fistula in Ethiopia.
You can learn more about how obstetric fistula develops from fistula surgeon Dr. Melaku in our short film, “Ending Fistula in Ethiopia”.
A fistula is a tear between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum. The tear is caused by the strain of prolonged labor and causes intense physical symptoms, including:
- Leaking of urine and/or feces
- Smells chronically
- Severe nerve damage, which can affect the ability to walk
- Skin infection from urine burn
And though a fistula is usually not life-threatening, it brings with it a slew of averse social, economic, and social consequences.
- Ostracism from community
- Abandonment by husband & family
- Deepening poverty and deprivation
- Education/Employment prospects grim
- Often begging or very low paid work
- High risk of depression and suicide
OF WOMEN LOSE THEIR BABIES DURING THE TRAUMATIC CHILDBIRTH
OF WOMEN WHO DEVELOP FISTULA ARE DIVORCED BY THEIR HUSBANDS
There is Hope
While women with obstetric fistula can be healed physically through a network of designated fistula hospitals, her complex emotional, spiritual, psychological, and economic needs requires a different treatment.
Healing Hands of Joy exists to fill this critical gap by giving former fistula patients a second chance through its two-week Safe Motherhood Ambassador training and rehabilitation program. As a Safe Motherhood Ambassador, a woman has the opportunity to improve the maternal health prospects of her village, save lives, and protect futures incidents. The Safe Motherhood Ambassadors are also empowered economically with income-generating skills training and a micro-loan to start her own business.
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