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Voices from the Field: Helping Mothers in Niger

  • September 21, 2009

Barbara Margolies, founder of the International Organization for Women & Development, recently wrote about her organization’s project in Niger, supported by AmeriCares Medical Outreach Program. I hope you’ll read her story and learn more about a serious health risk facing young mothers in the developing world. 

Her name is Mariama. When I met her, she was a young woman in her twenties who had suffered for over 15 years from an injury she endured while delivering a baby. Virtually unknown in the United States, her condition is called obstetric fistula. It happens when young mothers go through difficult, prolonged labor without medical attention. The condition left Mariama – and millions of other young mothers like her – with a lack of control over their bowels and bladder. Simply put, without treatment women constantly leak urine and feces.

Filled with shame, they are often abandoned by their husbands and shunned by society. The condition can be easily reversed with a simple surgery, yet there are at least 2 million women in developing countries living with the condition because of a lack of basic medical care. 

And so it was for Mariama. Living with an insurmountable sense of shame and no hope left, Mariama tried to commit suicide in order to escape. She was saved by her mother and in time her life was transformed when our medical volunteers were able to perform the surgery to repair her injury and restore her health. Today, Mariama works as a nurse’s aide, helping other women living with the same condition.

Our surgeons come to Niger three times each year and without fail hundreds of women greet them with applause in the hospital courtyard. As a nonprofit, we could never afford the medicines and supplies we have received from AmeriCares Medical Outreach Program — totaling more than $2 million over the years — to treat these women. Quite honestly, without these donations I don’t know what we would do.  It is with sincere gratitude, on behalf of myself, our volunteers and our patients, that I thank you. 

AmeriCares donates medical products to qualified U.S. health care professionals who are traveling overseas to provide charitable medical care to some of the most under-served people around the world. Through this program, donated medicines and medical supplies reach impoverished and isolated communities where even basic medical care is often non-existent.

Help AmeriCares save lives and restore health around the World »