New Life Post Surgical Obstetric Fistula Support Program
The Life Anew initiative is a life renewal program to aid women with obstetric fistulae in Malawi.
An obstetric fistula is an opening that occurs when a woman is unable to deliver her baby safely and the soft tissues the pelvic floor to ruptures creating a permanent opening where none should exist.
Many of the women who develop fistula are actually girls, some as young as twelve. Customs in many of the countries where the condition is prevalent force girls into early marriages and frequent pregnancies. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than two million young women live with untreated obstetric fistula in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. (May 2014.)
These fistulas cause women to continuously leak large amounts of urine and/or feces. Women often revert to eating or drinking less in an effort to reduce this leakage, which further complicates their health by causing malnourishment in countries where the diet is already inadequate.
Girls and women with fistula are ostracized because of the pungent smell they carry not only because of the constant “leaking” but also because some local superstitions condemn the women as being “bewitched” otherwise they would not have developed the condition. They are forced to live in isolated communities by themselves, often without their babies.
The aim of the New Life Post Surgical Obstetric Fistula Support Program is to integrate the women back into their societies. The Malawian Midwives Association with the support of local hospitals offers the women free surgical repair of the fistula and a safe house where they are housed before and after the surgery.
After the surgery, the Council’s Life Anew program provides each woman with a New Life kit. Each kit consists of a reusable plastic bucket, fabric for new clothing, nutritional supplements, feminine hygiene products, soap and other toiletries. The surgery gives them relief from pain and medical complications, but the New Life kit gives offers them the psychological healing they need to repair their dignity and sense of self worth. Armed with new, clean clothing, and a repaired sense of self, the women are empowered to return to their communities and can once again be integrated into society.