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One By One: Netroots Response to Fistula
Alex Steffen, 29 Sep 05

Obstetric Fistula is a childbearing injury, caused by long, obstructed labors without recourse to Caesarean sections. The consequences, left untreated, can be devastating, usually including both the death of the child and the incontinence of the mother. And women in the developing world, particularly Africa, rarely get the treatment they need:

Until this decade, outside nations that might be able to help effectively ignored the problem. The last global study, in which the World Health Organization estimated that more than two million women were living with obstetric fistulas, was conducted 16 years ago. Nor has a recent spate of international attention set off an outpouring of aid. Two years of global fundraising by the United Nations Population Fund, an agency devoted in part to improving women's health, has netted only $11 million for the problem. ...

Few doubt that the problem is most concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty and rudimentary health care combine with traditions of home birth and early pregnancy to make women especially vulnerable. In Nigeria alone, perhaps 400,000 to 800,000 women suffer untreated fistulas, says the United Nations.

Here, then, is a classic opportunity for worldchanging action: an entrenched problem, which could be largely addressed by more funding for medical care and education, largely ignored by big international NGOs and development agencies. In short, this is a place where a small group of people could make a big impact.

One By One is just such a group. Co-founded by ally Heidi Breeze-Harris, One By One is building an online network of fistula-fighters, who come together in giving circles to raise tax-exempt donations to provide treatment through the underfunded U.N. Campaign to End Fistula.

Great work. Online, distributed, empowering and bold. They're still small, but One By One is making change.

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I agree, supporting the U.N. is the best thing one can do in this case.

Supporting businesses who are more and more trying to enter the 'development market' and who might be interested in setting up small nonsensical clinics for their private profit is not the way to go; neither is giving money to micro-enterprises and entrepreneurial pushers who want to privatize the public sphere (not sure if it's happening yet in the health service sector in the dev world, but I'm sure they're brooding on it).

One by One is good.

Posted by: Lorenzo on 30 Sep 05

Dear Alex,
Thanks for highlighting this little known problems faced by many rural African women. Many moons ago, as an editor in a local newsweekly in Nigeria, I commissioned some stories on VVF, after stumbling on one such case at the local hospital.
My comment is deals with a related but much more abstract proposition. It is clear that Africa is indeed a special case, for all the wrong reasons. As I read the various postings on this so, sopwonderful site, I wistfully contemplate the possibilties of actually putting some of these great ideas and innovations presented to work in Africa. Of course I am not naive about the prospects of trying to solve my continent's problems, but in lieu of my nostrums, is it possible to create (as a special case) some kind of a clearing house of information and knowledge about what can possibly work in Africa, as a first step toward matching the solutions proffered, with the enormous challenges and problems that the continent presents. Just a thought,

Posted by: Tunji Lardner on 30 Sep 05



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