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For many years, Habiba (right) worked as a veterinarian, going into the fields regularly to care for the sick cattle. After a period of time, Habiba discovered that it was actually the women caring for the cattle, more than the actual cattle, who needed her help most. She shifted directions and founded the community-based organization Women And Development Against Distress (WADADIA) to help commercial sex workers and women living with HIV/AIDS achieve greater empowerment and reduce gender-based violence through support groups.
Using strategies honed from working with sex workers who are similarly marginalized and impoverished, WADADIA helps fistula survivors receive psychosocial support during group and individual counseling; develop economic empowerment through income-generating skills such as poultry raising, fish-farming, and basketry; gain access to bank accounts and loans through financial institutions; and achieve better control over their reproductive health. Reintegration support and assistance following fistula repair surgery is a key component of the healing process for women with obstetric fistula.
About obstetric fistula:
Obstetric fistula is a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged and obstructed labor without prompt medical intervention. Women who develop fistula suffer from chronic incontinence. Left untreated, the condition can lead to medical problems, including skin ulcerations and kidney disease. The persistent smell of urine is humiliating and women with fistula often become ostracized by family and friends. Fistula occurs disproportionately among impoverished girls and women that live in remote areas, far from access to adequate medical care during childbirth.
Given the hidden nature of the condition, the number of women with fistula worldwide is difficult to measure, but an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop annually—far surpassing the global capacity for treatment. Fistula is preventable and treatable. Fistula can be prevented when women have access to a skilled attendant during childbirth and to emergency obstetric care if complications arise during labor. For the many tragic existing cases, reconstructive fistula repair surgery can be provided by an experienced surgeon. Many women with fistula live with the condition for many years before receiving treatment, and the ability to leave a fistula care facility completely healed and dry has a profound impact on women’s health and well-being, uplifting families and communities. Learn more about fistula at Direct Relief.