Obstetric fistula. It's not weird jumble of letters but a birth problem that harms women and babies in the developing world. It starts because a baby's path out of the mother is obstructed for days (ya, without doctors labor can last that long). A fistula (hole) opens up in the birth canal. That hole dangerously connects the baby-claimed area to other body parts like the bladder or the rectum.
"The baby is stuck and can't move out, that's when the fistula occurs,” said Kate Grant, CEO of The Fistula Foundation. “You will usually lose the baby and be left incontinent (can’t control your bowels).”
Between 50,000 and 100,000 women are affected each year, but the global treatment capacity is less than 20,000. Shocking right? We couldn’t believe it either. According to Grant, these women are often ostracized because of the resulting smell—something they can’t control. Others believe they’re cursed or diseased.
Some women live in this hell for dozens of years, while the cure is as simple as a $450 surgery. And it happens to the poorest women living in the world’s poorest areas. The Fistula Foundation looks to amend this problem.
The organization not only helps thousands of women across 15 countries, but also gives financial support to 37 programs that provide direct care to women. “The very difficult truth is there is a profound lack of doctors throughout sub-Saharan Africa and part of Asia, where fistula is most prevalent,” Grant stated.
Think Ethiopia, where nearly 90 million people have only 143 obstetricians/gynecologists. And most of them work in the largest cities. Kind of hard to imagine not being able to see your doctor (let alone not having access to one), huh?
What you can do?