What is Fistula

Obstetric Fistula is caused by prolonged obstructed labor during child birth which is considered as the most devastating and serious of all childbirth injuries. Normally a hole between a woman's birth passage and one or more of her internal organs develops over many days of prolonged obstructed labor, the pressure of the baby's

head against the mother's pelvis cuts off vital blood supply to delicate tissues in the region. The dead tissue falls off and the woman is left with a hole between her vagina and her bladder which is normally referred to as (vesicovaginal fistula or VVF) and sometimes between her vagina and rectum (rectovaginal fistula, RVF). The hole results in permanent incontinence of urine and/or faeces.

The smell is foul and known for driving husbands away and women been kicked out of communities.

Without treatment, fistula often leads to social, physical, emotional and economic decline. Although some women with fistula display amazing courage and resilience, many others succumb to illness and despair.
The misery of fistula is relentless.

In spite of one's best efforts to stay clean, the smell of leaking urine or faeces is hard to eliminate and difficult to ignore. The dampness causes rashes and infections. The cleaning up is constant, and pain or discomfort may be continuous as well. The grief of losing a child and becoming disabled exacerbates the pain. The courage many women show in the face of these challenges is extraordinary.

The injury leaves women with few opportunities to earn a living, and many have to rely on others to survive, or turn to begging or commercial sex. In some communities they are not allowed to have anything to do with food preparation and may be excluded from prayer or other religious observances. Although many women with fistula have supportive families, the smell can drive even loving husbands and friends away. For many women, the profound social isolation is worse than the physical torment.

The pain and loneliness associated with fistula is often compounded by a sense of shame and humiliation. In some communities, the condition is seen as a punishment or a curse for an assumed wrongdoing, rather than as a medical condition.

The stigma associated with the condition keeps many women hidden away. Some go into deep physical and emotional decline and may resort to suicide. And because so many women with fistula remain marginalized and out of sight, many policy makers - and even some health providers - have failed to recognize the scope and severity of the tragedy

The Campaign to end Fistula

Preventing Fistula Saves Mothers' Lives
Every minute another woman in Africa or Asia dies in childbirth.
For each woman who dies, a family is shattered. Surviving children are deprived of a mother's care and put at risk. Communities suffer. These deaths represent the ultimate failure of maternal health care.
The toll is more than a half million women lost each year from treatable causes: severe bleeding, infections, hypertensive disorders, obstructed labour or complications from unsafe abortion.

The two million or more women who await fistula repair were very nearly part of this grim statistic. They survived the physical and emotional trauma of obstructed labour to become living reminders of health system failures. All too often, however, these women have been hidden away and forgotten.
Information provided courtesy of UNFPA

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