International Day To End Obstetric Fistula

Today is the very first ‘International Day to End Obstetric Fistula’.

‘What is Fistula?’ I can hear you think. Well… Fistula is a childbirth injury caused by prolonged obstructed labor. It’s a severe medical condition in which a hole develops between either the rectum and vagina or between the bladder and vagina. Usually occuring after severe or failed childbirth, in which the women loose the baby because adequate medical care is not around. The hole will make the woman leak urine uncontrolably and will isolate them within their families and communities. The stigma and shame involved is huge…

© Wendy Marijnissen

© Wendy Marijnissen

I’ve been able to work on this birth related issue in Pakistan a lot and get to know more about it.

A staggering 2 million women and girls around the world are affected. You can see on the Global Fistula map which countries still have high numbers of patients both in treatment and sadly many more undetected and unaware of their condition.

© Wendy Marijnissen

© Wendy Marijnissen

© Wendy Marijnissen

© Wendy Marijnissen

Dr. Shershah is a leading figure in the fight against fistula in Pakistan and puts all his extra time into raising awareness, educating doctors, finding funding to keep  the Koohi Goth Women’s hospital running so that with the help of UNFPA they can continue performing fistula repair surgery free of charge to the patients coming from all over Pakistan. And of course every week he does the actual surgery and tries to repair the holes.

The slideshow here is part of the End Fistula Campaign and one that UNFPA made with images I shot during my first 2 visits to Pakistan

To end off this post I want to show two more images of patients I met.
The first one is a photo of Shamim. After a successful fistula repair operation, Shamim was released out of the Qatar hospital in Karachi and was able to go back home. I was allowed to go home with her and see her reunite with her family and her adopted baby.  At 26 years old, she developed fistula during her first pregnancy at the age of 16. Assisted by a dai (traditional midwife), her obstructed labour ended with a stillborn baby and fistula. After two more failed pregnancies which ended with the fetus dying in the whomb, she and her husband have adopted a baby girl named Roxanna and could start a new life together after her fistula repair surgery.

© Wendy Marijnissen

© Wendy Marijnissen

The final one is of a young woman and her grandmother in the Koohi Goth hospital who was about to undergo a fistula repair operation. I think the smile on both their faces tells you everything you need to know. The idea of getting her life back…, to be able to shed the shame,… indescribable and wonderful.

© Wendy Marijnissen

© Wendy Marijnissen

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