Today, we celebrate the fifth annual International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. In the past five years, we have been encouraged to see this preventable, treatable childbirth injury receiving much needed attention and life changing action implemented across the globe.
We’ve witnessed an increase in cases at our partner hospital in Tanzania, CCBRT, as women realized that their condition was treatable, broke their silence, and were referred for treatment. Thanks to your generous support, and the support of our partners including Fistula Foundation, Johnson & Johnson and Direct Relief, over 4,370 women and girls received comprehensive treatment for obstetric fistula at CCBRT and partner facilities across Tanzania in the last five years. With the continued support of our global community, that number will continue to climb.
Helping to carry the burden
Women and girls with obstetric fistula need a comprehensive team of health professionals – from surgeons to counselors – for holistic recovery. Surgery can address the physical symptoms, but many women have also faced emotional wounds from abandonment, rejection, and traumatic loss. That’s why our program invests in training for nurses like Damaris.
“I always do the night shift, so I have lots of time to talk.” In fact, talking is part of her job. Damaris is one of very few nurses in Tanzania trained in counseling – an essential service for women and girls navigating their recovery from obstetric fistula.
Before joining the team on CCBRT’s fistula ward, Damaris completed counseling training at a nearby university. She explains: “Working with women recovering from fistula is emotional. After training, I can be strong to help carry their burden and help them move past their painful experiences.”
Damaris adds, “Even if women are physically healed from fistula, without counseling they are only halfway toward recovery. They need to know that there is life after fistula. They can return to their communities. They can connect with friends and family. They can start their own business.”
“They are women just like me”
Damaris recalls one patient specifically, with a complicated case of two fistulae. Damaris noticed her patient’s distress; she didn’t talk to anyone and spent all of her time alone. In counseling, the woman began to open up about her experience of abandonment, telling Damaris, “I’m not even wanted by my own mother and father.” But Damaris knew her patient’s future was bright. “I told her that everything was possible, that she would go back happy. And that I would support her every day until she went home dry.” The woman made a full recovery, and months later, she and Damaris still talk on the phone.
What inspires Damaris’ commitment to the fistula ward? “They are women just like me. Their stories should be heard. Even though I can’t solve everything, I know that talking makes a big difference.”
There is great need for psychological support for women recovering from fistula in Tanzania. Damaris hopes that CCBRT can continue to train more fistula nurses in specialized counseling skills – “especially nurses on the night shift!”
Today, and every day, we celebrate the strength of the women and girls we are proud to serve, and the healthcare workers like Damaris who work so diligently to provide the respectful and comprehensive care their patients deserve. Thank you for the part you play through your generous support of our work.
P.S., A note on data protection
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