Today is International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. Another one of those international days. Are they important? Do they matter?
Obstetric fistula is an absolutely horrific condition affecting 2 million women and girls around the world. Fistula is an abnormal opening, usually between the bladder and the vagina, but sometimes between the rectum and the vagina as well. Obstetric fistula often happens when a woman can’t get to hospital, a common problem in rural areas developing countries. There are between 100,000 and 150,000 new cases every year
A woman living with this condition will continually leak urine and faeces. She will smell, people will avoid her and often her husband leaves her. On top of the isolation and rejection they experience, she has probably also lost her baby because in the vast majority of obstructed labours the baby is stillborn.
In September we travelled to Uganda with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). We met Florence who laboured for five days at home and lost her baby, Susan who became depressed after her husband made her leave, and Harriet who feared she would lose her job as a teacher because of her smell. All these women have had their fistula fixed thanks to the amazing work of RCOG Fellows and Members. They’ve all gone on to safely have other babies. But many women do not get that help and remain ostracised for the rest of their lives.
So, do these days that raise awareness and lobby for more funding really matter? In short, yes.
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