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Celebrate Solutions: Repairing Obstetric Fistula and Female Genital Mutilation in Somaliland

By: Madeline Taskier, Partnership Coordinator at Women Deliver

hospital_maternity_ward.jpgObstetric fistula, like maternal mortality, is an almost entirely preventable condition experienced by at least 2 million women in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East every year. When a woman has prolonged or obstructed labor delaying delivery of her baby, a hole can form in the tissue between her bladder, vagina, and rectum causing uncontrollable leakage of feces or urine and often resulting in a stillborn birth. Performing surgery to repair the fistula is successful 90 percent of the time, but many women in these regions often do not have access to trained surgeons and have little knowledge of the existing treatments.   

In 1998, Edna Adan Ismail, former first lady of Somalia and trained nurse-midwife, recognized the need of women in her country for maternal health services, specifically fistula operations due to female genital mutilation (FGM). She founded the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia bordered by Djibouti and Ethiopia, which has some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Her goal was to train qualified health professionals, educate the community about the dangers of FGM and fistula and provide comprehensive health services for the women in her war-torn country.

Since 2002, the hospital has added 25 maternity beds and 13 surgery rooms. The program has trained over 100 Somali health professionals in this small territory: 30 nurses, 23 midwives, 15 lab technicians, and numerous health workers. These health professionals are working to repair fistulas for female patients who have been subjected to FGM as part of ubiquitous cultural practice. Anecdotal evidence suggests that nearly 95 to 100 percent of girls aged 4 to 11 in Somaliland experience FGM to some degree. The results are devastating: death from severe blood loss, contraction of HIV or hepatitis, or obstructed labor due to the stitching and closure of the anterior vagina. Women who suffer the painful outcomes of fistula are often ostracized by their communities and rejected by their families. 

The team at Edna Adan Hospital routinely performs surgeries to repair fistula and treat women who have suffered from FGM. They also have begun a longitudinal qualitative study examining the prevalence rates of FGM in Somaliland and its effects on women’s health. The hospital team is successful in its endeavors because it not only addresses the immediate health needs of these women in a region lacking healthcare access, but it also educates the community about how these practices continue to endanger women.  

Entry Comments

    • Feb 23
    • .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    I have read alot of books on FGM it really makes me upset to think that woman have this done because of culture,this is not culture this is torture to an extreme.The female body should be untouched it is the way it is meant to be.To have your vagina mutilated like that is maddness,who has the right to do such things to such an important part of a womans body? men get circumcised but they have a foreskin which should be left as well unless it causes irritation.A womans clitoris should not be circumcised how awful to think that millions of girls have this taken away!

    • Feb 24
    • .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    So sad.  Where are all the feminist organizations?  Why aren’t they speaking out against this?

    It makes me literally sick to my stomach.
    Is this in predominately Muslim countries?

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