COUNTRY/TOWN: Liberia / Monrovia
LENGTH: 2013 - 2019
Obstetric fistula occurs as a consequence of arrested or obstructed birth deliveries without medical assistance. Young women and those giving birth for the first time are the most prone to suffer from it. Sexual assault can also cause this affliction, which carries a heavy social burden, since the vast majority of women who suffer from it are also rejected by their husbands, families and communities.
According to UN data, there are between two to three and a half million women living with obstetric fistula, mostly in Africa, and it is estimated that between 50,000 and 100,000 new cases appear every year. The severity of this disease and the statistics that demonstrate it are at odds with most of society’s great lack of knowledge about it.
The Stop Fistula project, which was wound up in 2019, was carried out in Liberia as of May 2013 when the Women for Africa Fistula Unit was opened at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Monrovia by the then President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the President of Women for Africa, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega.
The project’s goal was to prevent and cure the greatest number of fistula cases possible in three ways. Firstly, this was via prevention through awareness-raising activities, by free antenatal consultations and deliveries for the most vulnerable women: girls and young women under 20 giving birth to their first child, and for those that present an arrested or obstructed birth. Secondly, there was reparative action whereby women already suffering from fistula were operated upon. In both these cases, the medical healthcare was free of charge. The third line of action involved training local healthcare staff.
As part of this project, seven surgical missions were carried out, operating on 196 women, assisting more than 4,000 deliveries and carrying out more than 20,000 antenatal consultations. Moreover, continuous training courses were given to over 200 healthcare professionals and awareness-raising activities were carried out for about 2,000 people in different towns.
The Probitas Foundation sponsored from 2016 to 2019 this initiative.
The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, which has recognized Women for Africa as an active and committed organization in the fight against obstetric fistula, has also collaborated economically with this project.