Reaching the unreachable: Polio campaign finds fistula patients

One of the worst things that can happen to a woman in rural Ethiopia is to have an obstructed labour and suffer an obstetric fistula.

These women become ostracised and are pushed to the edge of their society, socially isolated and often forgotten and invisible.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has a very clear goal – to eradicate obstetric fistula from Ethiopia. To make this happen, we have been working in partnership with the Ethiopian government to take advantage of the National Polio Campaign and find more sufferers.

As part of the polio campaign, government healthcare workers go door to door to identify those in need of a vaccination to prevent polio. This year, the healthcare workers are also looking for women with an obstetric fistula. The workers use a survey, translated into local languages, to identify potential cases.

As obstetric fistula cases are identified, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia will follow up to provide treatment.

This support by the government has streamlined the logistics of finding patients who are socially isolated and previously unreached. 2420 women who may have an obstetric fistula have already been identified including 22 in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

This innovative campaign has brought hope to many women who have been living with this horrendous childbirth injury in isolation.

Photo by Amber Hooper

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