Target: Ethiopian Health Minister, Dr. Tewodros Adhanom
Goal: Provide healthcare for Ethiopian women suffering from obstetric fistula
One of the most horrifying conditions affecting women of developing nations is known as obstetric fistula. A result of prolonged and obstructed childbirth, obstetric fistula is when a hole tears between the vagina and the bladder or rectum and leaves a woman incontinent. The condition usually occurs when the uterus is too small to pass the baby, and it is far more common in young pregnancies. Due to advanced medical technology and cesarians, obstetric fistula is far less common in developed nations, but affects over 2 million women and girls across the developing world. In Ethiopia the problem is especially heinous. Over 8,000 women are afflicted by this condition each year and many do not receive adequate medical care. Furthermore the women and girls who suffer from this condition also receive inhumane treatment from their community, as the loss of control over one’s bladder has a terrible stigma attached.
The experience of an Ethiopian woman suffering from obstetric fistula is truly a nightmare. She immediately becomes an outcast from her family and community, and oftentimes she is banished and forced to sleep with the animals in the barn. Her husband leaves her and her family insists she is a disappointment and has brought shame upon them. The psychological impact is too much for some women to bear and many have taken their own lives as a result. Furthermore, the physical symptoms are humiliating and painful. There is no relief and oftentimes obstetric fistulas lead to nerve damage in the feet and legs.
Although obstetric fistulas can be cured with surgery, the cost is far beyond what many Ethiopian women can afford. Also clinics that perform the surgery are nearly impossible to find in the rural areas of Ethiopia. There are a few free clinics that offer the surgery in the city but the wait list is years long. If a women from a rural community is lucky enough to be granted free surgery, she must walk for days to reach the city. If she survives the journey she has a 90% chance of recovery after one surgery but sometimes individuals require 2 or 3 surgeries to fully recover.
The status quo is not enough to meet the demand for medical treatment in Ethiopia. We must urge the Ethiopian Ministry of Health to provide adequate medical care for women suffering from obstetric fistulas, especially in rural communities. Furthermore, we need to encourage Ethiopian officials to enact awareness campaigns and education to destroy the social stigma attached to this condition that results in women being exiled from their community.
Dear Dr. Tewodros Adhanom,
Obstetric fistula is an awful condition that affects over 8,000 women in Ethiopia each year. Many do not have access to adequate medical care. Obstetric fistula occurs when a hole tears between the vagina and the bladder or rectum and leaves a woman incontinent. Many women develop nerve damage in their legs and feet as well.
The physical pain and risk of infection are threatening to these women’s lives. But perhaps even more perilous is the social stigma attached to obstetric fistula. Women who are suffering from the condition are often exiled from their family and community. They are considered a source of shame and are forced to sleep and live with the animals. Some women have even taken their own lives as a result of the psychological burden of obstetric fistula.
Although women who live with condition may feel hopeless, obstetric fistula can be easily cured with surgery. However the cost, approximately $450, is far beyond what many Ethiopian women can afford. There are a few free clinics in the city that offer the surgery but many rural women do not have access to them. If they are one of the lucky few to make it past the long years of being on the clinic’s wait-list, they walk for days to reach the city. If they survive the journey, they have a chance at survival and living a normal life. But few women are so fortunate.
I am asking you to provide adequate medical care for Ethiopian women suffering from obstetric fistula, especially to those living in rural areas. A clinic that provides the necessary surgery and financial help must be set up in a location that provides access to rural women. Furthermore I am asking that you enact an awareness campaign about the social stigma of obstetric fistula that results in women being exiled from their families. Thank you for your time.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: rabbit.Hole via Flickr