In mid-February, fistula surgeons, policy makers, researchers, and advocates gathered from around the world in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh to attend the 2nd HOPE Maternal Health & Fistula Conference. The event was hosted by Dr. Iftikher Mahmood and HOPE Hospital, Fistula Foundation’s trusted partner in Bangladesh. Over the course of the two-day conference, attendees heard from…
When Rahima was just 13 she was married to save her family money on living costs. Her mother says that “It was our luck” to marry Rahima off so young; even with paying her husband a dowry of 1 Lakh, the family was relieved of the financial burden of supporting her.
She soon became pregnant and went into labor at home without the help of a skilled birth attendant, like over two thirds of Bangladeshi women. In great pain, Rahima knew something was wrong when she felt that the baby wasn’t able to come out. Her labor was obstructed. After a day of labor at home with no relief, her husband and mother finally took her to the hospital where the doctors discovered that her baby had already died.
Yet her trauma was not over. During this obstructed labor, Rahima had developed an obstetric fistula, a hole between her birth canal and bladder that affects an estimated 1 million women around the world. The obstetric fistula causes a woman to be incontinent, leaking urine constantly for the rest of her life or until a repair surgery closes the hole.
Rahima says the urinary incontinence soon followed her return from the hospital. Her husband could not stand the smell of her and divorced her to remarry another woman. She was rejected from her neighbors, and moved in with her mother, the only person who would be around her because of her smell. Today, Rahima is 30 years old and has suffered from the isolation and shame of fistula for over 15 years.
Rahima heard about the free fistula repair services funded by Fistula Foundation at HOPE Hospital for the Women and Children of Bangladesh in Cox’s Bazar. She and her mother traveled from their rural area to the city for the fistula surgery, and she is hopeful for a future free from fistula. She says: “I am very happy. My problem will be solved so I came to HOPE Hospital.”
- Population: 168,957,745
- Average Births per Woman: 2.45
- Female Literacy: 58.5%
- Population Living in Poverty: 43.3% (less than $1.25/day)