Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Saving the Lives of Moms

No sooner do I send out my annual Mother's Day appeal (below) for the Fistula Foundation (which I'm on the board of) than Nick Kristof writes a wonderful op ed in today's NY Times about this terrible scourge, specifically mentioning the Fistula Foundation!

Left untreated, women and girls with fistulas become pariahs. Their husbands divorce them, and they are moved to a hut at the edge of the village. They lie there in pools of their waste, feeling deeply ashamed, trying to avoid food and water because of the shame of incontinence, and eventually they die of an infection or simple starvation.

But there's renewed hope for these women. The Fistula Foundation has been underwriting corrective surgery in many countries, and the United States Agency for International Development is helping as well. Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, says she will introduce a bill on Tuesday that would create a program to eradicate fistulas worldwide.

For years, Dr. Arrowsmith has been dreaming — along with Dr. Lewis Wall, a fistula expert at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis — of establishing a fistula hospital in West Africa. After I wrote about their organization, the Worldwide Fistula Fund, a couple of years ago, Times readers responded with an outpouring of support — some $500,000.

This is what your contributions achieved: The hospital recently opened in Danja, Niger. More than 60 women with fistulas were waiting at the ribbon-cutting, and a surgeon from the nearby country of Burkina Faso is working through the backlog.


My email: It's Mother's Day and if you're looking for a great idea for what you can get for your mom, look no further! Give a gift in her name to the Fistula Foundation:https://www.fistulafoundation.org/donation/donatenow/charitable.  I'm on the board of this wonderful organization, which helps women in developing countries suffering from a terrible childbirth injury called an obstetric fistula.


Here are pictures from one of my visits to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 2001:www.tilsonfunds.com/Personal/Fistula (user name: tilson; pw: funds), and here's an excerpt from an article I wrote about my visit (www.fool.com/news/foth/2001/foth010417.htm):

Life in Ethiopia is very hard for most everyone, but it's especially hard on the women. Like women in most of the developing world, they tend to do the most difficult, dirty work, yet generally do not have access to the few opportunities that exist for an education and a good job. Many are married off at a young age -- sometimes as young as 10 -- and often start bearing children by their early teens. Childbirth rarely occurs with a qualified attendant, much less at a hospital. If there's a problem during delivery, common given the lack of prenatal care, the babies often die and the mothers can suffer injuries.

A common injury is called an obstetrical fistula, which occurs when the baby tears a hole into the bladder and/or rectum, causing the mother to become permanently incontinent and constantly smelly. When this happens, the husband almost always abandons his wife, who returns to her family, often to be rejected again. These women have lives of unspeakable misery. One didn't leave her bed, much less her family's hut, for nine years before making her way to the Fistula Hospital.

The hospital specializes in the relatively simple surgical procedure that repairs the fistulas, allowing the patients to return to normal life and even bear children again. It heals more than 1,000 women annually, at a total cost of a mere $400,000 -- a pittance by Western standards, but a fortune in Ethiopia.


Saving the Lives of Moms

A Tanzanian woman getting a spinal anesthetic before a $450 surgery that would repair her fistula — and her life.

Published: May 12, 2012

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