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A Simple Operation Can Cure Tragic Condition in Mothers With Fistula

Patients at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia
Patients at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia

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This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

A medical aid program in Kenya offers hope to women and girls suffering from a condition known as fistula.

About two million women and girls worldwide have the condition. There are about one thousand new cases of fistula each year in Kenya and as many as one hundred thousand worldwide. Most cases of fistula are in Africa and Asia.

Last month, the African Medical and Research Foundation held a medical camp in Kenya to provide free operations to those with the condition.

A fistula is a hole that develops between two organs. Obstetric fistulas are caused by obstructed childbirth. When a baby's head is stuck in the birth canal for an extended period of time, it cuts off the blood supply to the woman's surrounding organs. This causes the tissues to die.

The woman is left with a hole between her vagina and her bladder or rectum. This causes her to continuously leak urine or feces. It may also prevent her from having other children, or having sexual relations.

If left untreated, fistula can cause other health problems. These include skin infections, kidney disorders and even death. Many women suffer intense shame and social rejection because of their condition.

Rose Opiyo developed fistula during childbirth twenty-three years ago.

ROSE OPIYO (TRANSLATED): "I had many problems. I could not go to my farm or conduct my business. There was nothing I could do. When you have this kind of a problem, you can only take care of your body. There is nothing else you can do. People hated me."

Many fistula sufferers are rejected and abandoned by their family and friends. Mrs. Opiyo's husband left her.

ROSE OPIYO (TRANSLATED): "He hated me because of the problem that I had. He eventually left me and married another woman."

Mrs. Opiyo was among the women who visited the free medical camp in Kenya to have operations to correct their condition. The World Health Organization says the simple operation can cure up to ninety percent of fistulas.

The organization also says fistula can largely be prevented. It advises girls to delay their first pregnancy until their bodies have fully developed. This reduces the risk of long and obstructed childbirth.

The organization also calls for an increase in quality health care and an end to harmful traditional practices like female genital cutting.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports are at I'm Steve Ember.