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
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
Information provided courtesy of UNFPA