Obstetric fistula, a childbirth injury which is a result of prolonged obstructed labor, is common in developing countries where the poor women cannot access proper medical care during pregnancy and labor. Uganda is no exception. Over 200,000 women suffer with fistula throughout the country.
Women with fistula live a life of isolation because the condition causes constant leakage of urine or feces. Sadly, many women suffering with fistula do not know that there is a cure for their condition. Due to a lack of information and education on their condition some even attribute their condition to curses or witchcraft.
The Uganda Village Project works hard to identify patients and giving them access to repair surgeries. However, locating patients proves to be difficult as women with fistula are isolated and marginalized in their communities. Our Fistula Coordinator, Loy, works tirelessly to locate fistula patients across 8 districts in Uganda. She is very successful in communicating about fistula and counseling women suffering with the condition because she herself suffered with the condition and had repair surgery. As one of our former fistula patients said, “I felt more comfortable because the person [fistula coordinator] who came to talk to me about this condition had gone through the same ordeal and was in a position to explain to me what fistula meant and that it could be cured”. Uganda Village Project wants to replicate Loy’s success by identifying other former fistula patients to be ambassadors in their communities.
In November of this year, Uganda Village Project's Fistula Program launched a Fistula Ambassadors project which brought together 18 former fistula patients from the districts of Namayingo, Iganga, Luuka, Budaka, Pallisa, Mayuge and Kaliro. In this two day training, the women were given knowledge on the causes, prevention and treatment of fistula. Additionally, trainees learned how to effectively communicate about fistula in their community and attended a fistula outreach where they could watch our Fistula Coordinator give her presentation and answer the community’s questions.
Now, as fistula ambassadors, these former fistula patients have the skills to actively identify patients in need of treatment, participate and organize outreaches in their communities to educate people about fistula, and create support networks where they can meet and discuss challenges and personal issues prior to or after surgery.
Since 2007, UVP has helped a total of 240 women living with fistula receive fistula surgery by conducting sensitizations, identifying fistula cases and facilitating the process of taking the women for surgery and supporting them while the recover in the hospital. We hope that with our Fistula Ambassador program, we can help that many more women. UVP’s Fistula Ambassador activities have been funded through a grant from the Fistula Foundation.
Check out photos from our training below:
|Our Fistula Ambassadors|
Written by: Kait Maloney
Edited by: Tiffany Hsieh