According to the United Nations, an estimated 2 to 3 million women and girls in developing countries are living with obstetric fistula – a statistic Mercy Ships is trying to change.
Obstetric fistula is one of the most serious and tragic injuries that can occur during childbirth. It is a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum caused by prolonged, obstructed labour without treatment.
The condition typically leaves women incontinent, and as a result they are often shunned by their communities. Sufferers often endure depression, social isolation and deepening poverty. Many women live with the condition for years – or even decades – because they cannot afford to obtain treatment.
The United Nations has identified preventing and treating obstetric fistula as key to achieving their Sustainable Development Goal 3, which is ensuring healthy lives, in this case improving maternal health.
The Mercy Ships Women’s Health Program gives free fistula repair operations for affected women. The healed patients are given new dresses and headdresses as symbols of their restored life. The program also works build the capacity of healthcare systems in developing nations to address the condition of fistula by proving training for local surgeons, nurses and traditional birth attendants.
Written By: Andrea Gilbert