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Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, Chargé d’Affaires of the United States Embassy, Ethiopia, joined IntraHealth International, local and regional leaders and governmental officials in inaugurating the fistula pre-repair rehabilitation center in Woreta Health Center, Amhara Regional State, on June 27. In Ethiopia, where about 2.9 million women give birth each year, approximately 8,700 mothers will develop obstetric fistula. Though almost entirely preventable with timely intervention for obstructed labor by cesarean section, it is estimated that there are about 100,000 women in rural Ethiopia with the condition.
Through the USAID-funded ACQUIRE Project, IntraHealth/Ethiopia is leading a two-year pilot program in the Amhara region designed to support fistula prevention and identification, repair and rehabilitation; establish a communications and referral network to transfer fistula repair patients to Bahir Dar Fistula Hospital; and increase skilled care at births, including improving the ability of health extension workers and traditional birth attendants to recognize danger signs of obstetric emergencies. The fistula program has been implemented in three targeted districts, or woredas (Woreta, Dangla and Adet).
The Woreta facility now has the capacity to house three patients at a time awaiting fistula operations. It will care for women before they are transferred to Bahir Dar Fistula Hospital for further treatment and repair. ACQUIRE has also renovated fistula pre-treatment areas for health centers in Dangla and Adet. These health posts and 15 other rural service delivery sites will participate in the program at the community level.
'It is simply a miracle, after all these long years,' said Laku G., who received treatment for fistula after more than three decades with the condition. Abandoned by her husband, family and community, Laku was homeless when a mentor working through the ACQUIRE Project identified her as a potential candidate for the procedure. After counseling on the cause of obstetric fistula and the possible outcomes of repair, Laku received a referral and was transported to Bahir Dar Fistula Hospital for treatment. 'I wish you had found me earlier. I will never beg again,' said Laku, who was declared cured of fistula on June 17.
With the support of USAID/Ethiopia, ACQUIRE is building the capacity of the selected health facilities and their staff and bringing about behavioral change related to maternal health, obstetric fistula care and pre- and post-fistula treatment.