Our first country of focus is Sierra Leone, a West African nation still steeped in poverty and poor medical practices. Ten years ago, this nation was embroiled in a horrific and devastating conflict between rebel groups and a dictator-like government that slaughtered 50,000 people and displaced 500,000 others. This conflict not only devastated cities, hospitals and schools, but employed a generation of child soldiers – including up to 20,000 girl soldiers. They are still rebuilding from this conflict, and the lack of road systems and hospitals has culminated in a horrible and widespread fistula problem.
The majority of Sierra Leone’s population lives in rural areas where traditional medical practices and stigma are still common place. Most women still give birth with midwives who aren’t prepared to deal with obstructed labor that often leads to stillbirths and obstetric fistula (read more about this problem here). Dr. Maggi, an obstetric fistula surgeon, notes that “although awareness has decreased the number of women abandoned in Sierra Leone as a result of fistula, it is still a huge problem.” When women develop this child birth injury, many are cast out and abandoned by their husbands, families and friends because they simply don’t understand the problem.
That’s why we’re working with Dr. Maggi and the West Africa Fistula Foundation (link) to change this problem. Dr. Maggi has performed over 1,200 fistula surgeries in Sierra Leone, and visits the country several times a year to perform surgeries at clinics. Last year we raised $25,000 and presented the check to Dr. Maggi who used the money to perform 25 surgeries on his recent trip to Africa (see the article here).
Each of these 25 women has a powerful, unique and inspirational story. Over the next few weeks, we will be releasing their stories and pictures. Thanks to every donor and supporter, these women’s lives will never be the same. Let’s continue fighting fistula, a preventable problem that can be conquered!