Climbing Kilimanjaro in the Fight Against Fistula

Alysse Leite-Rogers

The North Shore News reports on a North Vancouver, B.C. realtor who is raising funds for Fistula Foundation by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro:

ALYSSE Leite-Rogers, a Lynn Valley mother of three boys, felt overwhelmingly blessed.

Back in 2006, she caught an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show that tackled a topic she was unfamiliar with: fistula, a devastating medical condition affecting hundreds of thousands of women around the world.

According to the Fistula Foundation, a San Jose, Calif.-based non-profit organization that raises awareness of and funding for fistula treatment, as well as prevention and educational programs internationally, obstetric fistula is a childbirth injury common in countries where women give birth without medical assistance. Due to advances in health care as well as the use of C-sections to relieve obstructed labour, fistula was largely eliminated in North America in the late 19th century. A fistula is essentially a hole created internally between the birth passage and the rectum or bladder, leading to incontinence. The injury occurs during childbirth, the result of contractions and the pushing of a baby – which often does not survive.

Another common cause of fistula is sexual violence endured by women, through rape or internal violation with implements including wood, bayonets or rifles.

These women, if they survive the injury at all, due to their resulting foul smell and inability to have more children, are at times rejected by their partners, families and communities as a whole, leading to isolation, according to the foundation.

“It’s almost like being a leper,” says Leite-Rogers, 46.

“They spend the rest of their lives alone in this state of shame. It’s really quite awful,” she adds.

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Photo by North Shore News.

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