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International Group Launches Obstetric Fistula Campaign in Chinhoyi

FILE: Ethiopian based Fistula surgeon Dr. Ambaye Wolde Michael of the Women and Health Alliance performs surgery on 14 Zimbabwean women suffering from the injury.

After suffering for many years from social isolation and depression, Zimbabwean women in Mashonaland West province are smiling following the launch Wednesday of an obstetric fistula campaign at Chinhoyi Hospital this afternoon providing free surgeries to correct the condition that some women have lived with for over 20 years.

The surgeries, which are being done by foreign specialist surgeons with the help of local doctors, started with three women going under the knife to correct a condition that has afflicted them for years.

Obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal sustained during child birth, is a common maternal morbidity that impacts thousands of women in developing countries each year. It affects between 50,000 and 100,000 women each year, mostly in developing countries.

Most of the women who live through these complications may suffer incontinence, infections, kidney disease, and foot drop, which is reduced ability to walk as a result of nerve damage. Additionally, the majority of women with obstetric fistula deliver stillborn babies.

The condition is entirely preventable and has been eliminated in Western countries since the turn of the 20th century hence the launch in Chinhoyi today of the campaign to help end obstetric fistula in Zimbabwe.

National coordinator of the outreach program Fortune Mabhande with Women and Health Alliance International says women have been reaching out in huge numbers wanting to get operated on. She said for this campaign, over 300 women who have been living with the condition for years have signed-up for surgery.

Mabhande says it is sad that young poor girls who have been given off as in early marriages are some of the women turning up for help.

Mabhande says although they had started slow with only three operations today, the campaign hopes by the end of August more than 45 women would have been operated at the hospital.

Mabhande said the foreign surgeons are going to capacitate local doctors so that the program can continue to help long-suffering women long after they have left the country.

Women and Health Alliance International (WAHA) is working in conjunction with Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital, the Ministry of Health and their partners from the United Nations on the obstetric fistula campaign.

The program, which will run from August 18 to August 31, is looking to assist women throughout the country with free transportation, boarding, consultations and surgeries being provided by the organizations.

An obstetric fistula is a serious internal organ injury sustained during child birth, leaving women with urinary and other internal scars.

Some women have lived with the condition for over 20 years.

According to WAHA, so far 70 women have been assisted with fistula operations since the beginning of the year.

The WAHA program is part of a five-year national campaign to end obstetric fistula in Zimbabwe.

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