Obstetric fistula happens most frequently in rural areas, where emergency medical care is not easily accessible. A woman’s risk of developing fistula is also exacerbated by cultural misunderstanding about doctors and surgery. Madagascar faces both of these challenges: its infrastructure is poor, which can make travel to the hospital complicated and dangerous. Also, there is…
Maho was only 16 when she had her first child. Now 20, she is mother to two healthy children. But in June 2016, when giving birth to her third child, her labor went quite differently. She endured an excruciating labor that lasted three days and resulted in a C-section. Her child did not survive, and Maho had begun to leak urine. She had developed obstetric fistula as a result of her prolonged obstructed labor.
Only Maho’s family knew of her injury. They were supportive, as was her husband, and took good care of her. But she stayed inside, isolating herself from her friends because she didn’t want them to smell her.
A local doctor told her about free treatment available through SALFA, a Fistula Foundation partner. Her father, Joseph, accompanied her for the 90km journey to SALFA’s treatment facility in Morondava. There, she received fistula surgery that would change her life.
On leaving the hospital, Joseph told SALFA staff that he would spread the word that there is a place for women to receive help. It is a common rumor among Malagasy people that surgery is bad, that surgeons cannot be trusted – especially surgeons providing free surgery – because they will steal body parts. But Joseph wants to change that. He wants to tell everyone that there are doctors in Morondava who treat fistula, that they will treat it for free, and that “nothing is removed from your body, it is only repaired.”
“Come to [the SALFA hospital in Morondava],” Joseph says, “you will be treated for free. Bring the women who are concerned by this problem; there are already people flowing. They are healed! Do come please because this [injury] is horrible.”
- Population: 24,430,325
- Average Births per Woman: 4.12
- Female Literacy: 62.6%
- Population Living in Poverty: 75.3% (less than $1.25/day)