Rwanda

When Childbirth Threatens a Young Woman’s Future

  • May 22, 2014

While the birth of a child can be a joyful event, for Esther it was the end of her marriage, her social life and, she thought, her future.

During childbirth, Esther suffered an obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal, which caused her to leak urine constantly. The dampness and stench were always present; her husband left; friends and family stayed away. Then a radio announcement alerted Esther to a visiting team of surgeons who, using donated medicines and supplies from AmeriCares, could repair her condition.

Volunteer doctors and nurses from the International Organization for Women’s Development arrived in February 2014, carrying more than $20,000 worth of critical surgical supplies donated by AmeriCares through our Medical Outreach program. This trip was the twelfth for IOWD at Kibagabaga Hospital, and staff and patients were ready.

As well as performing fistula repair surgeries, the IOWD doctors train the Kibagabaga staff each visit. “We want to establish an expanding core of trained Rwanda surgeons and health workers who can help prevent, diagnose and surgically repair fistulas,” says surgery team leader Dr. Saifuddin T. Mama. On this trip, the team and staff screened 125 patients - 50 received surgery, the remainder were scheduled for future surgery or treated for other conditions. Patients also attended health education sessions: Prevention of fistula is a goal.

This volunteer medical team is one of 1,100 that AmeriCares supplied with free medicines and supplies in 2013. Eighty percent of those teams educate local health workers during their visit; most return to the same facilities year after year. When IOWD visits next, Esther will return for follow-up care, but she is already experiencing relief. “I am happy now,” Esther said. “I can do so many things.”