By Alex Steffen, posted September 29, 2005.
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.