February is the time when hearts are on everyone’s mind as Valentine’s Day approaches. But this year we decided to forget about the box of chocolates and flowery card instead and take proactive steps to raise awareness of Fistula.
Obstetric fistula (or vaginal fistula) is a medical condition in which a fistula (hole) develops between either the rectum and vagina or between the bladder and vagina after severe or failed childbirth, when adequate medical care is not available.
It is considered a disease of poverty because of its tendency to occur in women in poor countries who do not have health resources comparable to developed nations.
So many are young girls. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death and disability for women of reproductive age in these places.
LOOKING IN TANZANIA FOR RESTART
A woman with fistula is likely to be rejected by her husband because of her inability to bear more children and her foul smell. She will be shunned by her community and forced to live an isolated existence. These women suffer profound psychological trauma resulting from their utter loss of status and dignity, in addition to suffering constantly from their physical internal injury.
The Numbers Are Staggering
Right now, hundreds of thousands of women are suffering from this heartbreaking, treatable childbirth injury because they are too poor to afford surgery that costs about $450.
This number keeps growing bigger. Each year approximately 30,000 - 50,000 women develop this childbirth injury. The international capacity to treat fistula patients has been estimated at just over 14,000 a year — less than half the amount of new women who develop a fistula each year. Surgeons would describe this as an enormous backlog of untreated patients. There is clearly an overwhelming need for treating far more women.