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 Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid