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The Cause of Obstetric Fistula

At 25 years old, Rose Taigo was ready for motherhood. She assumed she would give birth at home in her rural village in Tanzania, like most women in her community. However, when her labor began, it soon became clear: Something was horribly wrong. 

She traveled to two healthcare facilities before she found doctors who were able to perform an emergency C-section—but by then it was too late. Her child was stillborn. When she regained consciousness four days later, she realized she was leaking urine. The leak created an unpleasant smell.

Soon after Rose returned to her village, her family and friends abandoned her. No one would associate with her because of her constant odor. Rose felt hopeless and alone. 

“[My friends] did not like me walking with them, because walking with them would bring them shame,” she said.

Rose was not aware that her condition, obstetric fistula, was treatable, or that it had a name. She felt like she had nowhere to turn. 

Unfortunately, Rose’s story is all too common. At least one million women across Africa and Asia needlessly suffer from fistula, a childbirth injury caused by obstructed labor. In most cases, fistula leaves a woman incontinent and ostracized by her community.

The Cure

After three years of suffering, Rose’s cousin was finally able to connect her with a community health worker (CHW) from CCBRT Hospital, a Fistula Foundation partner based in Dar es Salaam. The CHW helped arrange for her travel to the hospital, and informed her that every cost of her care was covered, from transportation to life-changing fistula surgery. 

Since 2009, Fistula Foundation, the organization I lead, has funded nearly 60,000 life-changing surgeries in 33 countries across the world to end this unnecessary suffering. Our network of surgeons provides life-transforming fistula surgery to more women than any other organization in the world.

The women who silently suffer with obstetric fistula are usually unaware that there’s a cure for their condition, or they are unable to afford the treatment that could heal them. Awareness and community outreach are key to finding women and referring them to partner facilities that are specialized in treating even the most complex cases.

What You Can Do to Help End Fistula

Support for fistula patients is made possible by the generosity of strangers: Our amazing donors care deeply about women like Rose—women whom they will never meet. People who learn about fistula patients are typically shocked that so many are left untreated. These kind individuals are inspired by the chance to give women back their health, and their future. To help more women, we are working to reach more people with a message about fistula, the horror it brings to a woman (and everyone in her community), and how to treat it: with a surgery that costs, on average, just $586.

Poverty and lack of access to healthcare are the main causes of obstetric fistula. Solving these complex problems will require decades of diligent and difficult work. Our mission is more targeted and more timely: End the needless suffering of women that is happening right now. 

Where There Is Hope, There Is Healing

At CCBRT Hospital, Rose began to feel hope for the first time in years. 

“When I got here, I thank[ed] God. I saw that there were many of us,” she said. “I even called my mother and told her, ‘This condition is treatable, and people are recovering!’”

Rose underwent fistula repair surgery, and today, she is completely dry! She is now looking forward to the future and has big dreams of becoming a tailor. 

If you’re inspired by Rose’s story and would like to help end the unnecessary suffering of women living with fistula, share this post with your network. Together, we can help women with fistula start their lives again.

Want to dive deeper?

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