As schools start and vacations end, Labor Day draws a close to summer and welcomes in fall, while Rosh Hashanah ushers in a new year. The beginning of fall is the traditional time to say goodbye to the laid-back pace of summer, and kick off a new beginning. As an organization, WFF works throughout the year to bring new beginnings to women across Africa who, for some, have spent years of their lives battling the stigmatisms associated with having Obstetric Fistula.
Thanks to all the work and incredible generosity from all our supporters, Worldwide Fistula Fund was able to realize a dream last year in the opening of the Danja Fistula Center in Niger. Several years ago Nicholas D. Kristof first wrote about Worldwide Fistula Fund and recently returned to the center to write a new op-ed for his column in the New York Times.
One of the most devastating aspects of fistula for women is the social isolation that often comes with the injury, coupled with a loss of financial support from family. Often, we hear of women coping with this injury who have been sent away from their family, and who must suddenly find a way to support themselves removed from traditional support systems.
As another week draws to a close, we are pleased to report that everything is going swimmingly at the Danja Fistula Center! We sent a newsletter out on Wednesday, but for those of you not on the list, we thought we’d recap the contents here:
As many of you know, the Danja Fistula Center opened its doors last week to the women of west Africa. So far, each day has been an exciting and special treat as community members and civic leaders have poured onto the grounds not only to offer assistance but also to show their support for both the DFC and all women suffering from fistula. Highlights of this incredible time include:
After several days of travel (and a couple of misplaced bags), our team has arrived at the new Danja Fistula Center in Niger and the news is good! There are about 20 surgeries scheduled for this week as well as a number of post-operative check-ins with our past patients. While some of the women who have shown up at the facility can’t be fit into the schedule for this trip, they either will be operated on during the next trip in November or as soon as the hospital commences year-round care (January 2012). The mood is hopeful and everyone is very excited to get the procedures underway and bring some measure of hope and healing to these ladies.
There are currently 14 women still receiving obstetric fistula treatment on the ward, and while nothing is guaranteed in the medical world, they are doing exceptionally well and the team is on schedule for a completion of services on Monday.
There is a space in between the fistula hospital ward and the operating room where family members of the patients have congregated for over a week. They support one another, bring food to their loved ones and greet the women with great happiness when they come out of surgery – regardless of whether or not they know them. They are a wonderful addition to the facility, and have a very positive impact on both the fistula patients and the staff.
The family members also have a favorite cheer that they shout to all of the medical staff when they walk by: “Barka da Aikey,” which means “Blessings on your work.”
Although all of Namu’s family members warned her not to travel to Danja to see the Western doctors, the misery of her obstetric fistula outweighed the discontent of her family. She first came to get screened by the Worldwide Fistula Fund’s team during their August 2010 surgical trip. During that appointment, she was treated medically for the first time in her life and heard first-hand accounts from women who had previously been treated. While the WFF doctors couldn’t fit her in the schedule until the March trip, her experience at the fistula hospital the first time assured her that the team had her best interests at heart. When she arrived this week she was greeted by the same nurses who saw her in August and told us that she now has an aspiration of becoming a fistula nurse. Namu received surgical treatment on Monday and is recuperating well and in great spirits.
Bamile is nearly 30 years old and has been living with an obstetric fistula for over a decade. She has five siblings but since her fistula developed, they have refused to recognize her existence. She lives in a small shack behind her family’s house and does odd jobs in exchange for food and shelter.
We met Bamile because she heard a radio ad that the Worldwide Fistula Fund’s team was coming to Danja, and borrowed money from her parents to take a two-day long taxi trip to receive treatment. To make sure that she didn’t miss the opportunity, she arrived at the fistula hospital five days early.
Bamile has a bubbly personality and spends her days chatting with her new friends on the ward and trying to figure out what she is going to do with her life now that she is not perpetually leaking.