Thursday, August 9, 2012

UVP's Obstetric Fistula Program

By Rashad Turan Korah Thomas

Virtually unheard of in wealthier nations, obstetric fistula (Latin for hole) is an affliction of the very poor, and is predominantly caused by neglected, obstructed labour. The prolonged impaction of the baby’s head against the mother’s internal tissue results in a severe medical condition in which an opening develops between either the rectum and vagina or between the bladder and vagina causing persistent incontinence and rank odour. Though a simple surgical repair can mend most cases of obstetric fistula, most women go untreated, unaware of what it is, afraid to admit to the condition if they do, or too poor to afford the repair. Because of the impoverished, rural demographic most affected by fistula it has historically been difficult to collect accurate statistics.

In addition to the physical damage done to a woman’s body there are other ramifications of the condition. Misinformation leads to stigma that often leads to women being ostracized from their homes or communities. Relegated to the periphery of community living, these women are, effectively, removed from engaging in society and at the same time are limited in their ability to care for themselves.

Up to June UVP, in partnership with UK-based Uganda Childbirth Injuries Fund (UCIF), helped facilitate surgical repairs for 12 women from 4 different districts at the two repair camps this year. The partnership allows UVP and UCIF to remain faithful to their strengths for the greatest impact. UVP identifies women with obstetric fistula though village outreaches, health centre referrals, radio shows, and simple word-of-mouth between women. UVP then transports women to “repair camps” at Kamuli Mission Hospital, where they are repaired by surgeons from UCIF. UVP also transports one attendant for each patient and after surgery; UVP transports the women home (an important step, because if they go home by motorcycle taxi, or walk long distances, they risk re-opening their healing fistula).

Our fistula program staff then follow-up at the women’s homes to check on the repair’s success, to monitor for surgical complications, and to assist the women with further steps in the cases where the repair was not successful.

To donate to UVP and the obstetric fistula program, check out our donations page here.

Rashad Turan Korah Thomas currently serves as UVP's Country Director and is located in Iganga town. This article was taken from UVP's Semi-Annual Report for 2012. 

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