Freedom From Fistula

Aseya Hussein, of Dangla, Ethiopia, suffered from an obstetric fistula for 16 years. Divorced by her husband as a result of her debilitating condition, Ms. Hussein lived within walking distance of a health center, but did not know the facility could help her. Now, thanks to a community outreach campaign organized by the ACQUIRE Project and the arrival of a fistula mentor at the Dangla Health Center, she has been cured. Freedom from the effects and stigma of fistula has enabled Ms. Hussein to sell coffee and handicrafts to support herself and her three children rather than having to rely on her brothers.

Women suffering from fistula often find themselves shunned by their communities and are all too frequently abandoned by their husbands and families. To address this situation at the community level, the Project has sensitized leaders, teachers and students to issues surrounding fistula, establishing a strong network of communication, referral and transportation between the communities and Project partners. Women in these communities now know that fistula can be cured and have access to fistula repair services. Of the 88 women diagnosed with fistula, 50 have been cured so far.

The ACQUIRE Project, in which IntraHealth is a partner, is working to change women's lives in Ethiopia by preventing and curing fistula and informing communities about the causes and treatment of this condition. In partnership with Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and Amhara Regional State Health Bureau, the USAID-funded pilot project brings comprehensive fistula care and prevention services to three Ethiopian districts, or woredas. The project coordinates efforts among the hospital, three woreda health centers, 15 satellite health posts and the communities served by these facilities.

About obstetric fistula
Obstetric fistula occurs when obstructed labor leads to a blocked blood supply in the woman’s vaginal canal. Tissue between the vagina and the urethra or the colon dies, leaving a hole through which urine or feces pass continuously and uncontrollably. Without surgery, these women will suffer fistula’s effects for the rest of their lives. Increased skilled care at birth and access to emergency medical care for labor complications are essential to reducing the number of women suffering from fistula in countries such as Ethiopia. The condition is almost entirely preventable with timely intervention for obstructed labor by cesarean section.