Fistula Program in Togo10.05.2012- During a six-week schedule, Mercy Ships will perform 68-78 surgeries to repair obstetric fistulas. Along with these surgeries, Mercy Ships will provide emotional and practical support for these women, helping prepare them to rejoin their family and community with a restored dignity.
Conditions such as vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF) and recto-vaginal fistula (RVF), practically unheard of in Western countries, are rampant in developing countries. Fistulas occur when obstructed labor and delivery inhibits adequate blood supply to the pelvic region, damages nerves and tissue and creates a hole where there was none. The baby usually doesn't survive, while the mother is left with a fistula that causes incontinence, continual leaking of urine and/or feces. These women are often abandoned by their families and shunned by society. Alone and isolated, these silent sufferers typically hide from community activity and social interaction.
Exact figures for VVF and RVF prevalence are unknown due to the hidden nature of women affected and because of the stigmas associated. In Togo, a country with just over six-million people and an annual birth rate of 36 per 1,000 people, there are an estimated 432 to 648 new cases of fistulas per year.
To celebrate the success of the surgery and their return to a normal life, patients on board the Africa Mercy are given a new dress to wear before going home. This is patterned after the practice of the famous Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, In Ethiopia, where a patient discharge is a time of great rejoicing. A woman’s departure from the ship is celebrated in a special ceremony, filled with songs of joy, dances and laughters.