News / Africa

U.S. Foundation Supports Fistula Treatment in Africa

Women inside a clinic in UgandaWomen inside a clinic in Uganda
x
Women inside a clinic in Uganda
Women inside a clinic in Uganda

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis
For hundreds of thousands of women in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, obstructed childbirth leads to a life of pain and, in many cases, public shame and isolation. 

“Obstetric Fistula is a childbirth injury,” says Kate Grant, the chief executive officer of the Fistula Foundation in San Jose, California. “It happens to women who stay in obstructed labor, sometimes for as long as five or seven days. 

“The injury actually leaves a woman incontinent,” says Grant. “That’s the bad news.”

For the half-million women now suffering obstetric fistula, surgery can address the physical damage, so the non-profit foundation funds hospitals and doctors in Africa that treat fistula. The foundation supports medical services for obstetric fistula in 19 countries in Africa and South Asia and has funded an estimated 7,000 procedures in the past six years.

“Many times these hospitals not only provide the surgery, but they also do outreach campaigns to try to locate the women to let them know that the injury certainly isn’t their fault, that they’re not cursed, that the injury can be treated, often times with medical care,” says Grant.

Grant praises the hospitals, the doctors and medical staffs and especially the women who suffer the trauma of those births. She calls them all heroes. She says bringing a baby into the world under difficult circumstances can turn what was to be the happiest day of their lives into the tragic loss of a baby and a life-long injury such as fistula.

“By the time they get to a hospital, they’ve gone through so much,” Grant noted.    
Grant says in most cases surgery can be performed and the patients return to normal health.

It takes more than a surgeon

“Many times these hospitals not only provide the surgery, but they also do outreach campaigns to try to locate the women to let them know that the injury certainly isn’t their fault. That they’re not cursed. That the injury can be treated, often times with medical care,” says Grant.

The fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labor, leaving a woman incontinent; unable to control the flow of her urine or her feces. It most commonly occurs among women in undeveloped countries who give birth without any access to medical help.

“In effect, if she lives in a more rural area, she doesn’t have access to the kind of products we have in the U.S., or a developed country - incontinence pads, and things that would allow someone to lead a normal life,” says Grant.

Because of the leakage and odor, a woman knows something is wrong, but doesn’t know what exactly it is or what to do about it.

“So she knows she has a problem.  Sometimes she won’t know that she actually has fistula.  She might not be aware of exactly what the injury is, but she will definitely know the symptom which is incontinence,” says Grant.

Without medical intervention, the woman is often abandoned by her husband and banned from the village because of the foul smell that emanates from the woman due to fistula. 

“It’s not always the case,” says Grant. “There are some saintly husbands who stay with their wives.”

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs