By: Habiba Cooper Diallo
Founder – Women’s Health Organization International (WHOI)
The World Health Organization (WHO) calls fistula, “The most frightful affliction of humankind”
Obstetric fistula is an injury that results from a prolonged and obstructed labour. Women who develop fistulas can be in labour for up to five days. Because the birth canal is blocked and the baby cannot come out, it will apply pressure to the tissue of the mother’s internal organs causing a hole or fistula to form between her vagina and bladder or rectum. As a result, urine or feces will constantly drip from the woman and she becomes socially-ostracized due to her smell. There are an estimated 2 to 3.5 million women living with fistula across Africa and Asia. It is difficult to have precise statistics around the number of fistula sufferers given that it affects women in remote areas that can be inaccessible.
In recognition of International Women’s Day, held every year in March, we would like to remember all of the fistula patients around the world who continue to suffer and to be isolated due to their condition. We urge governments to implement policies that support women and give them access to medical centres.
In 2013, we held a film screening about obstetric fistula at Dalhousie’s Student Union Building. You can find photos from our 2013 screening by clicking here.