By: Kate Grant, CEO Fistula Foundation
I remember what it felt like when my son was born. After 24 hours of labor, nearly four hours of which was pushing with little result other than utter exhaustion, I ended up with C-section. But other than a bruised ego, my son and I were both healthy. I remember the true awe – and I use that word literally and carefully – that I felt the first time I picked him up. I know that I am lucky.
In Madagascar, many mothers are robbed of that joyful moment. Instead, they are left usually with a stillborn child and too often an obstetric fistula, a devastating childbirth injury that leaves a woman incontinent. It happens most frequently to women living in rural areas, where emergency obstetric care is not available or easily accessible—the exact situation many face in Madagascar.
These women are daughters, sisters, wives, and friends. Demand for treatment is exploding in Madagascar, and word is spreading fast throughout the island nation that high-quality fistula care is available.
This is in large part thanks to the many healed women who have become fistula advocates in their communities. These courageous women know the misery of fistula firsthand, and can relate to each mother’s suffering. It’s not uncommon to see a patient in the fistula ward with her advocate by her bedside for emotional support.
Advocates are key to earning women’s trust in Madagascar. Many who develop obstetric fistula are hesitant to seek treatment even if it is available, due to a common local belief that surgeons only operate to steal a patient’s organs. This makes advocates all the more important—they know firsthand that our doctors are trustworthy.
One of our strongest advocates is named Ndatsaha. Obstetric fistula robbed her of some of the best years of her life, and she suffered alone until a neighbor told her that treatment was available through Fistula Foundation. As she was healing in the fistula ward after surgery, Ndatsaha was inspired by the other patients’ stories and decided to become an advocate. Since then, Ndatsaha has brought many women to the hospital for treatment, including her own 17 year-old niece, Tovisoa.
Thanks to dedicated ambassadors like Ndatsaha, more women than ever are coming forward for treatment. To meet the need, our partners on the ground in Madagascar have set an ambitious goal: they’re aiming to provide a record-breaking 1,000 surgeries in 2019, up from 600 last year.
Fistula Foundation is dedicating all Mother’s Day gifts to Madagascar. What’s more, a generous donor has offered to match each donation up to $200,000!
I know had I been giving birth in many parts of Madagascar, my son likely would have died and I could have ended up with a fistula. Motherhood is the most profound and important experience of my life and I wish every mother to be had the kind of care I received. This Mother’s Day, together, we can help the many women in Madagascar who didn’t get the shot at motherhood they deserved and are still suffering needlessly for want of a single surgery that can change their lives forever.