Meet the Champions of the Fight to Eradicate Obstetric Fistula

Ethiopiaid’s maternal health partners work to prevent, treat and rehabilitate women with obstetric fistula. Together, we work across Ethiopia providing surgery, counselling, skills training, antenatal and postnatal care. Here are some of the champions fighting to eradicate obstetric fistula:

Surgeons

Our partners operate on fistula patients, whilst simultaneously training new surgeons to increase the number of skilled obstetric, surgical staff. Pictured is Dr Mulu Muleta.

Mulu graduated from medical school aged 23 and was the youngest doctor in Ethiopia’s history. She received an award from the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) in recognition of her lifetime services to women’s health. Alongside the training of the next generation of surgeons, she helps provide fistula operations, which are free to some of Ethiopia’s most marginalised women thanks to the generosity of supporters. In most cases, the operation to close the hole(s) is simple – and can take as little as an hour to perform. Complex cases may require several operations. Surgeons like Dr. Mulu work hard to operate on as many women as possible – relieving them of pain, discomfort and stigma. 

There are an estimated 39,000 women suffering with untreated fistula in Ethiopia. Help us to fund more fistula operations to restore comfort and dignity to traumatised women.

Midwives

Pictured here is Abanet, a midwife working in a remote health centre in Harar. Midwives are integral to helping women to deliver babies safely and provide antenatal classes.

These classes provide education on life-saving maternal health practices and the best prevention methods, which decrease risk to both mother and child. Because of this, our goal and Catherine Hamlin’s dream to eradicate fistula in Ethiopia is one step closer to fruition. 

Midwives are stationed in hospitals and health centres across Ethiopia. Many are themselves fistula survivors and their journeys are part of the wider cycle to prevent obstetric fistula. After graduation they are deployed back to these areas – they are often the only health workers for hundreds of miles around. In the past five years, your support has helped around 15,000 women (roughly 3,000 per year) to be seen by midwives like Abanet – saving them from devastating and life-threatening childbirth injuries and decreasing the risks to their babies. 

However, there is still a shortage – there are only around 7,000 trained midwives in Ethiopia, serving a population of 100 million. With your help, we can fund training for more midwifery students. 

Safe Motherhood Ambassadors

The SMAs are former fistula patients themselves, who are trained to promote birth injury prevention by educating pregnant mothers on good maternal health (antenatal and postnatal care) and safe delivery practices. They also go out into communities raising awareness on fistula and looking for untreated patients who they refer for treatment. SMAs also encourage women treated for fistula to attend skills workshops for self-sufficiency (including literacy, numeracy and income generating activities). 

Meet Birhan (pictured right) who has been a SMA for 6 years and has ensured the safe delivery of many babies (‘I cannot count’). 

As the women she cares for often live many miles away, and the only way to reach them is on foot, Birhan has been provided with comfortable walking shoes, an umbrella for the sun (and rain) and a mobile phone (in case of emergencies). SMAs work closely with health extension workers based in health centres across Ethiopia – many in remote regions.

Health workers make basic assessments and refer women to hospital when they are about to give birth or need other urgent medical attention, such as when labour becomes obstructed. They are trained to deliver babies when there is no time to get the women to a hospital – this skilled medical presence helps reduce fistula incidences and rates of stillborn babies. Both health workers and SMAs work all hours to ensure that women have access to medical care. Together they support midwives, doctors and surgeons. 

Please support the training of more SMAs, so that we can expand our reach and help more women in need.

If you would like to donate to our appeal supporting these heroes, please click here.

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