I was on vacation on May 23rd, ten time zones away from home. I had no idea that the United Nations, after years of discussing and planning, had declared May 23, 2013, as the first-ever International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. Countries around the globe participated. Yes!
Here are the basics about a condition that has pretty much disappeared in the United States, but plagues many impoverished women and teen-age girls in poorer countries. A fistula is essentially an abnormal passageway between two organs in a person’s body or between an organ and the surface of a body. An obstetrical fistula can happen during a very long and difficult childbirth. Tissue in the birth canal is so damaged that it dies, leaving a hole between the canal and the bladder or rectum. This condition results in permanent incontinence of urine, or feces, or both. Often the baby dies as well. Most of the women and girls are shunned by their families or communities because of their foul smell and inability to bear more children.
Not a pleasant topic to talk about, true. But for an estimated two million to three million women and girls on our planet, this condition is something they live with. The television documentary “A Walk to Beautiful” tells the story of five women in rural Ethiopia who trek hundreds of miles to the hospital in where doctors repair obstetrical fistulas. Read more at The Fistula Foundation. You can link to other organizations that support women and girls at the Blue Thread Pursuing Justice page. May 23 has come and gone this year, but every day is a good day to help.