Author: Fistula Foundation

01_cover_hope_bangladesh_mother-and-child

Obstetric Fistula and the Sustainable Development Goals

The UN General Assembly convenes in New York this week. On the agenda: discussion of the first Sustainable Development Goals Report, published in July 2016, which notes impressive gains made over the last few decades. But it is also a reminder that these gains aren’t shared by all. “Between 1990 and 2015, the global maternal mortality ratio declined by 44 percent.” —The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2016 In Bangladesh, where Fistula Foundation actively funds fistula treatment, the maternal mortality ratio decreased by 69 percent between 1990 and 2015. But in rural areas of Bangladesh, where there is limited or no access to health facilities, unattended home births are still common, putting women at risk for death or injuries during childbirth. With over 65 percent of the country’s population living in rural areas, that means many Bangladeshi women are still at risk. Women like Ayesha. Ayesha’s story Ayesha labored at home for seven days. She desperately needed medical care, but there was no way to reach help. Stormy weather made it impossible to leave the small …

CoverPhoto-Dadaab-refugees-fistula-screening

Life-Changing Surgery for Refugees in Kenya

Written by Lindsey Pollaczek, Fistula Foundation Program Director It’s difficult to imagine what it would be like to live in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. Located on the northeastern border of Kenya, the camp is home to more than 300,000 people, mostly refugees from Somalia displaced by years of conflict and famine at home. Iam in the middle of Ben Rawlence’s book City of Thorns, a disturbing look inside the lives of nine residents of this sprawling camp and the tremendous daily struggles they face. When I try to comprehend how much more difficult it would be to live in Dadaab with an obstetric fistula, a debilitating childbirth injury that leaves women constantly leaking urine or feces, it is a harrowing prospect. Over the six years I have been involved in this work, I have spoken with hundreds of women who have lived with fistula. Many endured painful, prolonged labor, lost their babies, and were abandoned by their spouses and isolated by society as a result of their condition. Life-changing surgery Since last May, …

Dr. Lengmang and team

Overcoming Treatment Obstacles in Nigeria

Earlier this month, the UN released its final report on the Millennium Development Goals. Progress in MDG 5, improving maternal health, ultimately lagged behind the others.  Far too many women in the 21st century are still dying during childbirth, and not enough are delivering in the presence of a skilled birth attendant. For every woman who dies during childbirth, at least 20 more suffer from devastating injuries like obstetric fistula, a condition that results from prolonged obstructed labor and renders a woman incontinent. So why are so many women delivering on their own, without skilled assistance or emergency obstetric care? Why are women still developing obstetric fistulas, when we know it’s a condition that can be prevented and should no longer exist? Some of the main hurdles are due to poverty – women may live far away from the nearest hospital, particularly in rural areas, and transportation can be too expensive. Still other hurdles have to do with healthcare infrastructure, or, perhaps more appropriately, a lack thereof: for women who do make it to a …

fistula patients group

The Unsung Hero Behind HOPE Bangladesh

There are many unsung heroes in our world who work tirelessly to better the lives of people besides themselves. One of these people is Dr. Iftikher Mahmood, who, for the last 15 years, has quietly been improving the health of countless women in need who would otherwise be forgotten. Dr. Mahmood was born in southern Bangladesh in Cox’s Bazar, a region of the country where 9 in 10 women deliver their babies at home without access to a trained medical professional. Today, he lives in Miami, Florida, where he is a pediatrician. But he always knew he wanted to do something to help those who needed medical care in his home country. So, in 1999, he rented a facility that he turned into a one-room outpatient clinic, putting his own money and energy into his dream before asking anyone else to join him. After these humble beginnings, support from the Bangladeshi community in southern Florida and across the US helped him raise funds in 2005 to build what is today HOPE Hospital: a 40-bed charitable …

image (1)

My Mother’s Day Gift

By Elisa Gambino In the spring of 2013, my husband, Neal Broffman, and I visited Gondar University Hospital in Ethiopia with partners Fistula Foundation and Johnson & Johnson. We interviewed and filmed the work that they are supporting to treat women suffering from obstetric fistula, an injury caused by prolonged, obstructed labor that renders a woman incontinent until she can access reparative surgery. This is an injury that can ruin a woman’s life. The constant smell from her incontinence too often prompts her husband to leave or community to abandon her, relegating her to a life of shame and isolation – for doing nothing more than try to bring a child into this world. Woman who are poor cannot access skilled care because they live in remote areas or they don’t know that they should go to a clinic to deliver. The first fistula patient I met was Workinesh, who was at the hospital to receive surgery to repair her fistula. Workinesh was with her daughter, who was my daughter Sofia’s age at the time. …

GG Fistula

A Patient Ambassador

For 24 hours, Loy labored in a small hospital in the Iganga District of southeast Uganda. The delivery was so difficult that it ruptured her uterus. Tragically, her baby did not survive. Doctors performed a hysterectomy, but a few days later Loy noticed she was leaking urine. She went back to the hospital and learned that she had likely developed an obstetric fistula, a devastating childbirth injury caused by prolonged, obstructed labor that renders a woman incontinent. It is most common in developing countries where women have limited access to antenatal care and emergency obstetric services. Uganda is no exception. Thankfully, only six months after she began leaking, Loy was able to access free surgery to repair her fistula through Uganda Village Project (UVP), a small organization in Iganga focused on public health and sustainable development. Loy heard about UVP through a friend and approached the organization for help. They brought her to Kamuli Mission Hospital where her fistula was healed after two operations. Loy’s journey with UVP did not end there, however. She wanted …