At the age of 16, Aida had been in labor for three days and didn’t know where to turn. Neighbors in her community came together and paid for transport to the local clinic; unfortunately, it was too late. Her baby was delivered, but stillborn. She was released without further care or diagnosis. Despite Aida’s devastating loss, additional heartbreak was yet to come.
What she didn’t know is that she was one of the 100,000 women every year who suffered a new case of obstetric fistula (OF) and is now one of the over 2 million women worldwide who live with it. The majority of women like her live in the developing world where there is limited access to medical care and rarely anyone who can perform routine fistula repair surgeries.
Virtually eliminated in the developed world, OF results when the fetus is unable to pass through the mother’s pelvis. Without medical intervention, the mother continues in labor for days, causing compression of the vaginal tissue and severe damage to soft tissue Most often, fetal death occurs from asphyxiation at which time it is finally expelled, causing more tissue damage and creating a hole between the vagina and bladder an d/or rectum. This results in the constant leaking of urine and/or feces. According to the Fistula Foundation, “A woman with fistula is often rejected by her husband and pushed out of her village due to her foul smell.” Because of the odor, women become social outcasts, are isolated from their communities, and fight serious depression and thoughts of suicide.
Aida is alone. For 9 years she has been ostracized from her community. Divorced by her husband, she is forced to live in a separate hut outside of her village. She is unable to find work because of the odor from the constant leaking of urine and spends her days grieving and feeling abandoned. For money and for social interaction, she is compelled to beg. This solitude has caused her to slip into a severe depression. Without help, her condition will continue to persist and worsen as she may suffer renal failure, infertility, and neurological and psychological disorders.
Aida’s story is an all too common story of a woman living with OF. Many stories of OF sufferers begin and end with these circumstances. Young, poor women in the developing world, through no fault of their own, live out their lives in constant physical and emotional pain. The fear of exclusion from their community forces them to try to hide their condition, which few are able to do.
In our Spring 2019 Newsletter, we highlighted the life-changing work performed by Dr. Itengré. After working for 6 years in neighboring Niger, he has a dream of building a specialized fistula repair hospital in his home country of Burkina Faso. For now, Dr. Itengré rents an operating room at a local clinic, which proves challenging since it is heavily utilized and rarely available. An obstetric fistula surgery costs $500 and is the beginning of an entirely new life for a woman.
With your support, SowHope has funded over 20 life-changing operations for women who have suffered for years. The goal if this project is to give access to holistic care and empowerment to women suffering from OF. The women who receive the life-transforming surgeries also gain the opportunity to participate in a 2-month program that prepares them socially and psychologically for reintegration into society. This includes training for revenue-generating activities that will contribute to the restoration of their dignity and their acceptance in the community. These women need our help.
Dr. Itengré and SowHope are committed to restoring these women to society. This is one of our most important projects. In the future, SowHope hopes to help provide the over $1 million estimated to build the dream hospital, but for now we plan to continue to fund these necessary and life-changing surgeries. Our goal, combined with a $20,000 matching gift, is to raise $50,000 to cover the costs of surgeries for 100 women over the next two years. Will you help us continue to empower 100 women with new life? Donate here.
Today, I am asking you to consider giving a gift toward our goal of $50,000 and the $20,000 matching gift for transformative surgeries for 100 women.
Mary Dailey Brown
President & CEO
SowHope is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit international charitable organization. Each donation to SowHope is tax-deductible to the extent allowed under applicable law and represents a contribution to its entire mission, which is to inspire women around the world by promoting wellness, education, and economic opportunities.