Ethiopia is a beautiful country with a population of more than 80 million people. As one of the most impoverished places in the world, maternal deaths and disabilities are among the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The women of Ethiopia seriously lack medical care, especially in obstetrics as there is only a handful of hospitals and only one specialist in gynaecology and obstetrics per 1.8 million people. 90% of its 80 million people live in rural areas making availability of health services extremely scarce. Many women die during delivery (720 out of 100,000 live births) but higher still is the number of women who survive childbirth only to sustain serious injuries and permanent damage to their health, such as obstetric fistulas. Per today 100,000 women suffer untreated fistulas in Ethiopia and another 9,000 develop fistulas every year.
A fistula can occur if a woman does not receive obstetric care when complications arise during labour. If the baby’s body becomes stuck in the pelvis over a long period of time, if malpresentation occurs, or if contractions gradually cease, the constant pressure will interrupt blood circulation and the surrounding tissue can die. A hole then develops between the vagina and the bladder (and/or rectum) resulting in such severe internal injuries that they are no longer able to control their bodily functions. This results in the women experiencing chronic leakage of urine and/or faeces.
In addition to the leakage, she will also suffer kidney and skin infections, and due to having to squat for periods of time measured in days while enduring painful labour contractions she can suffer nerve damage in the legs which could cause paralysis and disability. Ultimately the baby is unlikely to survive. If, in the case the woman herself survives, her husband and society at large will most likely reject her because of the foul condition left behind by the chronic leakage and her inability to bear more children. She will soon be shunned by her community and forced to live an isolated existence with profound psychological trauma; she is forced to live in sorrow, shame, and tremendous poverty. Often her community also believes her condition is the result of being cursed or having sinned, and unfortunately she believes it too.
Countries with a well run health care system hardly have this problem, since emergency Caesarean section or other emergency measures are performed if there are any dangers to the mother or child during labour and delivery. But in Ethiopia's remote regions, women don't have anyone to help them if there are complications during birth.
Fistulas are relatively easy to repair but as the majority of cases are complex the surgeon needs special training. The longer a patient waits untreated the more difficult the surgeon's job becomes and scarring is to blame for this. However, according to the World Health Organisation, 90% of cases can be healed. The operation costs around NOK 1200-1500 and includes post-operative care and physical therapy to strengthen the pelvic muscles and/or paralysis of the legs. With her fistula repaired a woman can return to a normal life and be freed from her physical and psychological torment. She can become productive, get married and give birth again as long as it's by caesarean section. Healed women are thus no longer affected by rejection, poverty, and all the misery caused by this heart breaking childbirth injury.
Please help support our cause so we can together help stop the suffering and give these women the dignity and quality of life they deserve.
The first CD recorded, “Singing for the Women of Ethiopia” (December 2007), has been distributed to many parts of the world and all donations received have supported the education of midwives and health officers. Specifically, 200 midwives and 35 health officers have finished their training and have started working at the 10 small hospitals/health centres that have been built out in the rural areas in connection to Arba Minch hospital. Here they are performing comprehensive emergency obstetric care, including caesarean sections, saving the lives of mothers and their babies.
The training of health officers is a continuous project, which is now supported financially by NORAD (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation). However, the newly opened fistula department at the hospital in Arba Minch does not receive support from any non-profit organisations. The contributions from the latest CD “Caring For Ethiopia” Vol 2 will therefore support this department - support which is endlessly important as without our help a fistula woman in this area would not be able to get the necessary treatment she needs.
100% of all collections will be handed over directly to NLM (The Norwegian Lutheran Mission) in Addis Ababa and from there paid to the hospital in Arba Minch after receipt received on work performed. NLM managed this hospital lead by DR Bernt Lindtjørn until the summer of 2011 but it is now run by the Ethiopians themselves.
For details on how to donate to the project, please see the DONATE page (link at the top)