Fistula Foundation Board Chair Bill Mann has been passionate about delivering life-changing care to women suffering from obstetric fistula since his first visit to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 2011. This January, he had a little time to fill, so he booked a plane ticket to visit Fistula Foundation partners in Malawi, Kenya, Madagascar…
During that time, Bernard came across a number of women with fistula but did not know how to support them, as he was largely unfamiliar with the condition. His concern for these women continued to grow and he decided he wanted to do something to help. That’s when he first heard about DOM.
As a county mobilizer, Bernard’s main role is to identify new fistula patients. He first conducts verbal screenings then refers potential patients to our partner facilities for a more thorough physical exam. Women who are diagnosed with fistula are then referred to the nearest treatment center to undergo free repair surgery. Following treatment, Bernard follows up with patients to ensure they are doing well and to address any reintegration challenges they might be experiencing.
“Challenges are inevitable while working with this kind of population,” Bernard says. “Men are still the sole decision makers in our African setting, so even women who have fistula are unable to make the choice of whether to go in for treatment or not. Men don’t like being part of any conversation that talks about women’s reproductive health. The few who do allow their wives to go for treatment often don’t even visit them while they are in the hospital. The lack of men’s support in the treatment process is a stumbling block.”
What keeps Bernard motivated in the face of all these challenges? The smiles on the faces of fistula patients after their surgery. “Is there anything on this planet as rewarding as seeing someone smile?” he asks. “Those smiles keep me going when the going gets tough. I feel it’s the least I can do in gratitude of the life my mother gave me.”
- Population: 45,010,056
- Average Births per Woman: 3.54
- Female Literacy: 84.2%
- Population Living in Poverty: 43.4% (less than $1.25/day)