This Mother's Day, Give a Mother the Gift of Life

This Mother's Day, Give a Mother the Gift of Life
cc licensed flickr photo shared by United Nations Photo

In honor of Mother’s Day 2014, we are featuring one of our recommended charities, The Fistula Foundation.

Childbirth should be a joyous event, but for some 1,000,000 women worldwide, it has resulted in the development of an obstetric fistula* which leads to ostracism and social isolation.

The root causes of fistula are grinding poverty and the low status of women and girls. Extreme poverty and malnutrition in children in developing countries contributes to the condition of stunting, keeping a girl’s skeleton (and therefore pelvis) from reaching full maturity. This stunted condition can contribute to obstructed labor, and therefore fistula. Another major contributor is simple lack of access to medical care.

Obstetric fistula is both preventable and treatable. Unfortunately, due to a shortage of trained surgeons and money to pay for surgeries, only about 20,000 women receive surgery for this condition annually, or one of every 50 women in need. The surgery is estimated to cost only $450 USD (less than a typical night’s stay in a U.S. hospital) and is about 90% effective. The Fistula Foundation is working effectively to provide corrective surgery to more mothers, who are primarily very young and living in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. By donating to The Fistula Foundation, you can help give these mothers the chance to have productive, enjoyable lives instead of the alternative: rejection from their communities and husbands, and sometimes, death. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Mother’s Day!

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* An obstetric fistula of the kind that occurs in many developing countries is a hole between a woman’s vagina and her bladder or rectum resulting from obstructed labor that is left unrelieved and untreated. The condition causes urine and feces incontinence. In the United States and other affluent countries, emergency obstetric care for obstructed labor is readily available. In many developing countries where there are few hospitals, few doctors, and poor transportation systems, obstructed labor often results in death of the mother. If she survives, there is a great likelihood her child will die and she will develop a fistula, resulting in permanent incontinence of urine and/or feces.

Fistula used to be prevalent in the U.S. and Europe, but was nearly eliminated in the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century thanks to improved obstetric care and the use of C-sections to relieve obstructed labor.

Charles Bresler
Charles Bresler
Charlie Bresler is Executive Director of The Life You Can Save. He was formerly President of Men's Wearhouse. Charlie is interested in ways he can help fight the devastating effects of global poverty and is very interested in systemic solutions to social inequity and environmental problems.

Charlie lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington with his wife of forty years. He has two children, a daughter, Kayla, who works in a non-profit that seeks to increase low-cost housing units in the Seattle area and a son, Noah, who is an organic farmer on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington. Charlie spends his free time with his wife hiking and enjoying nature and movies, on his son’s farm, and with his daughter and her husband.
The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.


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