The progressive complications of fistula are devastating. In nearly every case the baby is stillborn. Women and girls with fistula are unable to stay dry. They smell of urine or feces, and are shunned by the community and, at times, even by their own husbands and families. They remain hidden, shamed, and forgotten.
Fistula is an easily preventable disease, but it will take time to alter deep-seeded cultural institutions, and prevention will not ease suffering of women who already live with fistula.
Treatment is available through reconstructive surgery. This surgery for uncomplicated cases has a 90% success rate, and successful surgery enables women to live normal lives, even have more children, by a cesarean section to prevent the fistula from recurring.
Unfortunately, while at US standards the price of surgery and care of $300-450 sounds almost laughably low-priced, a great majority in Africa could never save as much however frugal, not to mention how elusive must be employment when soiled beyond personal control.
The largest challenge that stands between women and fistula treatment is information. Most women have no idea that treatment is available. Because this is a condition of shame and embarrassment, most women hide themselves and their condition and suffer in silence with no relief.
We can train counselors and clinicians in the social as well as technical steps to remedy. In fact, think for a moment of the satisfying efficacy of trained and empowered fistula survivors animated by new hope and knowledge, with a capacity to impart it with tangible empathy, who can go to suffering women still doomed to live alone, as emissaries with an invitation.
This 5-minute film features Nigerian fistula surgeon Dr. Zubairu Iliyasu and Natalie Imbruglia, a
spokesperson for the global Campaign to End Fistula.