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Global Problems Can be Solved

Ending Fistula In This Generation

July 23, 2007

For 12 years, Sarah Omega Kidangasi suffered isolation and abandonment as a result of her obstetric fistula—a debilitating childbirth injury that renders its victims incontinent.

“The experience of leaking urine for 12 years has been full of humiliation, pain, self pity, rejection and loneliness,” said Kidangasi, a 32-year-old Kenyan. “I have often thought of committing suicide.”

But with the help of the UN Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Campaign to End Fistula, Kidangasi received fistula repair surgery and is now working to help other women with the condition, which was eliminated in the West more than a century ago but continues to plague at least 2 million women in Africa, Asia and the Arab region.

We are working with UNFPA, international organizations and grassroots organizations to end fistula in this generation. We spearheaded the formation of the Adolescent Girls Cluster of faith and community leaders, international organizations and UN agencies engaged in combating fistula, and provided a grant that helped create One by One, a nonprofit organization that advocates for fistula awareness on the grassroots level. We also supported a Capitol Hill film screening and reception for A Walk to Beautiful, a 2009 Emmy award-winning documentary film that follows several young Ethiopian women as they attempt to have their fistula repaired.

Additionally, in partnership with UNFPA, we hosted Kidangasi, as well as a fistula survivor and fistula surgeons from Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for events in New York City and Washington, D.C., in May 2008. The women honed their advocacy skills and shared their experiences with Congressional members and staff, international organizations and faith leaders. Singer Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell and model Christy Turlington Burns appeared with the fistula advocates at a Capitol Hill rally to promote maternal health. Working together, we hope to make obstetric fistula as rare in developing countries as it is in the industrialized world.

• Working with UNFPA, we hosted fistula survivors and fistula surgeons from Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who shared the tragedy of fistula with Congressional members and staff on Capitol Hill.

• We supported A Walk to Beautiful, an award-winning documentary that follows five young Ethiopian girls as they attempt to have their fistula repaired.

• We spearheaded the formation of an adolescent girls-focused cluster of faith and community leaders, international organizations and UN agencies engaged in combating fistula. Link to information about the adolescent girls cluster from Breakthrough summit.

 
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