Wondwossen Tebeje, Fistula Mentor
“The mothers I am helping could be my mother,” says Wondwossen Tebeje, “and I would not want my mother to suffer like women with fistula.” Wondwossen is one of IntraHealth’s fistula mentors in Ethiopia.
His work involves identifying and caring for women who can benefit from fistula repair surgery. Obstetric fistula is an injury caused by prolonged labor that produces a hole between a vagina and bladder, rectum, or both, through which waste passes uncontrollably.
The condition is almost entirely preventable through access to emergency obstetric care and voluntary family planning services, yet thousands of women in under-resourced countries develop fistula every year. “Since I am a midwife, I am interested in helping mothers, especially those who live in rural areas,” Wondwossen says, “who are not able to have access to all health services.”
Enthusiastic about contributing to reducing the number of women who die in Ethiopia, Wondwossen wants to help other women avoid experiencing fistula. Training community members and health care providers in and around his pre-repair unit on how to recognize and prevent obstetric fistula lets him do his part.
As the mentor at the pre-repair unit the in Sekota, Wondwossen diagnoses, treats, and counsels patients. The pre-repair unit has two other staff: a nurse aide, who feeds, counsels, and cares for patients after they arrive at the unit; and a driver, who takes care of logistics and transports patients to the hospital for surgery.
Without his co-workers, Wondwossen says could not do his job well. “We have such a strong team spirit,” he says, “and I get wonderful support from both of them.”
He credits the Sekota community with the project’s successes. “The people here really want to help each other and our project; they are always asking how they can help,” he says. “I think we are effective because we work well with the local government and other nongovernmental organizations and because of our commitment to maternal and child health.”
Wondwossen works on the Fistula Care Project, funded by USAID and led by EngenderHealth; the project is supported in Ethiopia by IntraHealth.