The average Guinean woman will have six children during her lifetime, but due to the lack of obstetric care, many develop fistula, a painful injury that is especially traumatic due to the stigma associated with it. During obstructed labor, a baby’s head may be pressed against his mother’s pelvic bone, cutting off circulation to tissue in the area and literally creating a hole or “fistula” in her bladder or rectum. Aside from the physical pain, many also suffer psychological trauma, as they are often shunned by their families and communities due to the foul smell resulting from their injuries. The internationally renowned Hamlin Fistula Foundation says that although this condition was eradicated in the United States over a century ago, more than 2 million women in developing countries still suffer from it today.
USAID is helping more than 1,500 women in Guinea access treatment for fistula and working with communities-women and men, secular and religious leaders-to understand, prevent, and treat fistula while better supporting those who have suffered from it. In addition, USAID is strengthening the national health system by training doctors, nurses, and midwives in fistula prevention and care.