So, what is a fistula? Why does it matter to women in DR Congo? This medical term may not mean much to you, but its impact is devastating on the lives of women in Congo. We are planning another campaign to treat an additional 40 women this February 2021. This annual campaign started in 2017 and continued to be held yearly except 2020 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

An obstetrical fistula is an abnormal opening created when the head of the baby cannot pass through the birth canal. The tissue, which is trapped between the head and the mother’s pelvic bones, dies and leaves a hole. This hole allows urine or feces to leak throughout the day and night. The woman has a continuous bad odor. The husband and other family members often abandon or chase the woman away due to the odor and her inability to keep clean. The woman’s self-esteem is shattered and may cause depression and suicide. Physically, socially and economically the woman is devastated.

We have identified a number of women with fistulas in the Vanga region. An experienced Congolese fistula specialist along with Dr Shannon Potter have agreed to come to help our surgical team in Vanga between February 28th to March 8th to operate on up to 40 patients at the Vanga Evangelical Hospital.

The cost of this surgery is $1000/case, an impossible amount for the impoverished women to pay. The $400 of that is Operating Room costs but in the end the full cost is $1000 per case because of the costs feeding patients and their family and the cost of transporting patients to and from the hospital. (No it is not a good thing for postoperative healing if women take a long motorcycle ride within a few weeks of surgery.)

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