Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world. With a total population of 102 million, there are still very few trained midwives or medical professionals, especially in rural and remote areas where over 80% of the population resides. This results in less than 16% of births taking place with a skilled attendant present, and a life of despair for many women with obstetric fistula. The latest statistics indicate that there are 3,000 new cases of obstetric fistula each year, in addition to over 36,000 untreated cases.
What is Fistula?
An obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labor, leaving a woman incontinent of urine or feces or both. Obstructed labor can last up to six or seven days. During labor, contractions push the baby’s head against the mother’s pelvic bone. The soft tissues between the baby’s head and the pelvic bone do not receive adequate blood flow. The lack of blood flow causes the tissue to die, creating holes between the mother’s bladder and vagina and/or between the rectum and vagina. This is what produces incontinence in a fistula patient.
With obstructed labor and in the absence of skilled birth attendants, the death of infants is often inevitable. In addition to incontinence and losing their babies, many women with fistula suffer severe nerve damage as well as psychological trauma. And as a result of their incontinence, women are rejected and ostracized. In Canada, fistula was eradicated over 100 years ago. In Ethiopia, latest statistics estimate there are still 3,000 new cases of obstetric fistula each year, occurring largely in rural and impoverished regions of the country, and that there are between 30,000 to 40,000 women living with fistula throughout Ethiopia, unable to access treatment and suffering in silence.
ETHIOPIAID’S AIM: Increase access to quality maternal health and safe childbirth, and help eradicate fistula throughout Ethiopia.
We believe that we can have a greater impact on Ethiopia's development by working directly with Ethiopian partner organizations who know their communities best.
Our maternal health partnerships:
Ethiopiaid works with AMREF to strengthen maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) in Ethiopia's Afar region. This is done by training health workers and managers, equipping health centres with WASH, medicines and infrastructure, training volunteers to conduct community education on MNCH and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), and providing health centres with therapeutic and nutritious foods for pregnant women and children.