The UN General Assembly convenes in New York this week. On the agenda: discussion of the first Sustainable Development Goals Report, published in July 2016, which notes impressive gains made over the last few decades. But it is also a reminder that these gains aren’t shared by all.
“Between 1990 and 2015, the global maternal mortality ratio declined by 44 percent.” —The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2016
In Bangladesh, where Fistula Foundation actively funds fistula treatment, the maternal mortality ratio decreased by 69 percent between 1990 and 2015. But in rural areas of Bangladesh, where there is limited or no access to health facilities, unattended home births are still common, putting women at risk for death or injuries during childbirth. With over 65 percent of the country’s population living in rural areas, that means many Bangladeshi women are still at risk.
Women like Ayesha.
Ayesha labored at home for seven days. She desperately needed medical care, but there was no way to reach help. Stormy weather made it impossible to leave the small island where she and her husband lived in southern Bangladesh.
She finally delivered a stillborn baby. But her ordeal wasn’t over. Just one day later, she noticed she was leaking urine. The long, traumatic labor had caused an obstetric fistula, a debilitating childbirth injury that leaves women constantly leaking urine or feces—or sometimes both. The only way to repair the injury is through surgery.
Like other women who either don’t know their condition is treatable, or who can’t afford treatment at a private facility, Ayesha suffered for years. After her husband took a second wife and stopped supporting her, she moved in with her parents. Neighbors she once called friends began to taunt her because of her smell. She felt helpless and alone.
This nightmare happened nine years ago. Today, Ayesha is only 21 years old.
More than numbers
Globally, there are more than 1 million women living with obstetric fistula, with new cases occurring all the time. Surgery to repair the injury costs, on average, less than $600 and takes about an hour. Despite the relatively low cost, the best available estimates show that roughly 20,000 of these surgeries are performed each year. For every woman who receives treatment, 50 more still wait.
But this problem is not only about statistics. It’s about real people. Young women like Ayesha. She’s someone’s daughter, someone’s wife, someone’s mother, someone’s sister.
Over the last 15 years, maternal health has improved globally, but, for some women, it’s as if time is standing still.
No one left behind
“Leaving no one behind is the overarching principle of the 2030 Agenda.” —Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2016
For nearly two decades, Hope Hospital, our partner in southern Bangladesh, has been quietly working to provide free or inexpensive medical care to thousands of underserved women and children in rural areas around Cox’s Bazar. They began offering fistula surgery in 2011, and have so far changed the lives of more than 200 women suffering with fistula. In this region of 2 million people, their small facility remains the only routine provider of fistula surgery.
Which is why we believe in funding the fistula ward of their new Hope Maternity and Fistula Center. Once built, this 6-floor facility will allow Hope to treat more women who are suffering, and will also help prevent injuries like fistula by providing family planning, antenatal care, emergency obstetric care, and midwife training.
Thanks to the dedicated staff there, women like Ayesha have hope for the future. Once she learned that treatment was available at Hope Hospital, Ayesha was finally able to get the help she needed. Although her case was very complex and she endured multiple surgeries, one of her two fistulas has since been repaired, and she will soon undergo surgery to heal the remaining fistula.
Hope Hospital is reaching women who have been left behind. With this new facility, they’ll be able to treat even more women who need care. You can be a part of that, too. Through September 30, every dollar you give will be used to build and support the Hope Maternity and Fistula Center in Bangladesh.
Join us on Twitter by following our campaign hashtag #BuildHOPE4Bangladesh.
Cover Photo: Mother and child outside Hope Hospital in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Credit: Jessica Love