DRC: CBM'S Fistula Campaign Aims to Give Women Back Their Dignity

Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Sys-Con Media
Central Africa
Congo (Kinshasa)
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

On 22nd March 2012, CBM, the overseas disability charity, will be running a UK wide awareness campaign about their work in the treatment and rehabilitation of women who have/have had Obstetric Fistula. The campaign aims to bring this "woman's issue" to the fore.

CBM, the overseas disability charity, funds many projects that treat obstetric fistula. These projects are located in regions where treatment is most needed.

CBM want to help more women regain their dignity - something that is lost when you no longer have control of your most basic bodily functions - by helping them with the surgery that they so desperately need.

Preventing and managing obstetric fistula contributes to improved maternal health, the fifth Millennium Development Goal. Obstructed labour occurs in 5% of live births and accounts for 8% of all maternal deaths. Most fistulae occur among women living in poverty, in cultures where a woman's status and self-esteem may depend almost entirely on her marriage and ability to bear children.

Obstetric fistula still exists because health care systems fail to provide accessible, quality maternal health care, including skilled care at birth, basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care, and affordable treatment of fistula. CBM is working to change this and make the treatment accessible to all those who need it, but it needs to raise vital funds for this work.

In Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, the HEAL AFRICA project conducts VVF surgery which targets women who, as a result of the persistent conflict in the area, have either been victims of sexual violence or have experienced difficulties in childbirth. Women are treated through surgery and also receive counselling at the project. Awareness campaigns and rehabilitation also take place.

CCBRT in Tanzania is building a new maternity hospital, and is working to reduce the prevalence of disability and mitigate the effects of impairments by increased community awareness, strengthening maternal and newborn care and providing comprehensive early intervention services in Tanzania and Kenya.

CCBRT have introduced new technology in the race to increase the number of women that can be treated. M-PESA is an application that allows the transfer of money using their mobile phones. CBM supports CCBRT to pay bus fares up front. This is done by transferring money through agents so they can pay for patient's fares. Since the launch in 2009, the number of women arriving for treatment has increased by 40%. In the first 6 months of 2011, M-PESA was used to pay for the transport of 93 out of 174 patients treated. This innovation gives the opportunity for outreach and community workers to offer even more women the chance to get treatment that they otherwise would not be able to receive due to the cost of transportation.

These are just two projects that CBM works closely with in the battle to reduce the approximate 1.5 million women who currently need treatment. Just £30 can transport a woman to the hospital and £250 can pay for surgery.