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

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora