obstetric fistula
June 16, 2005 9:12 PM   Subscribe

Outcasts in Their Own Villages "More than one million young women with the condition are scattered throughout the so-called fistula belt that stretches across the southern hem of the Sahara from Eritrea to Mali. Because of their severe incontinence and smell, many have been ostracized by their families and villages and live by themselves or with fellow fistula sufferers. They are the lepers of the desert." [also see]
posted by kliuless (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by nickyskye at 10:10 PM on June 16, 2005

Holy Christ that's awful! I'm ashamed to say I had no idea, absolutely none. I mean, I knew about the vast rate of (near) child marriage/rape/pregnancy, but this horrific side effect is news to me. I guess it's one more thing to be either tragically sad about, or feel tremendously grateful for the absurd quirk of fate that put me here in the world I grew up in, when there are so many more horrendous places I could have been born.
posted by jonson at 10:14 PM on June 16, 2005

There is a foundation working to help these women: the Hamlin Fistula Relief and Aid Fund. You can also donate to the Fistula Foundation directly.

I don't have numbers, but this is also a problem with women suffering from Crohn's and Colitis.
posted by ?! at 10:19 PM on June 16, 2005

This was a heart breaking story, but it gave me a lot of hope for women's rights in that area. Also, her father's devotion surprised me delightfully, I guess I have stereotypes about men's roles in Africa,which were completely changed reading this.
posted by slimslowslider at 10:26 PM on June 16, 2005

Wow. That was an incredible story. It makes me more determined than ever to keep volunteering as a part of my life, locally and internationally.

Thanks kliuless.
posted by state fxn at 11:34 PM on June 16, 2005

Here is the website to the In't'l Organization for Women and Development mentioned in the article.
posted by msjen at 11:42 PM on June 16, 2005

What a story.
posted by handee at 2:17 AM on June 17, 2005

What a great story. It is amazing how the power of the father's love for his daughter made him change his entire world view.
posted by missbossy at 2:18 AM on June 17, 2005

As much news as we get from our own part of the world, there are so many everyday problems elsewhere that we don't hear about. Reading this story really helps put things in perspective, but it's also promising to see how much we can do to help.
posted by charlie36751 at 2:36 AM on June 17, 2005

Great post, thanks!
posted by Chimp at 3:58 AM on June 17, 2005

Also see this previous MeFi post from two years ago. The links are different, but the story is pretty much the same.
posted by Doohickie at 5:35 AM on June 17, 2005

Also, reading about this wonderful American couple, and the volunteering doctors, brought back feelings about Americans that I thought I had lost. Brave people, great post! Thanks!
posted by acrobat at 6:26 AM on June 17, 2005

I've read many articles, online and off, about this topic (and the volunteer efforts in the West), but what touched me most were the two fathers mentioned here: the one insisting that his daughter be allowed to go back to school, and the other concluding that his daughter had been too young to bear her first child, and that no other girl should have to suffer the same experience. As a feminist who hears way too much about the human rights abuses that are perpetrated by men against women and girls in other parts of the world, it really touched me to see the human (and brave) face of a father's love.
posted by availablelight at 6:30 AM on June 17, 2005

I was just discussing Fistula the other day (not a normal or typical topic of conversation, mind you). I only just learned about "it" a few years ago when a friend of a friend was in Tanzania doing work with the women there (medical + education). Nice post, kliuless and I second charlie36751's sentiments.
posted by shoepal at 7:40 AM on June 17, 2005

It's a great idea to volunteer and donate to funds that help these women directly, but I would also encourage people to put some time into the political aspect. SAP (Structural Adjustment Programs) have often required that countries institute user fees for health care and education, which makes it difficult for the poorest people to access these services. For girls, this is particularly problematic. A starving or barely surviving family confronted with school fees is unlikely to keep their girl in school when she can either provide for the family through work or ease the burden on her family by getting married.

No matter how many doctors volunteer to fix fistulas, change is not going to be widespread and successful until the infrastructure for a healthy and prosperous population is in place. Accessible health care and education are fundamental to change, and the only way to achieve that is to lift the World Bank and IMF restrictions on providing them.
posted by carmen at 8:53 AM on June 17, 2005

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