Issue 3 Stories

Operation Transforms Women's Lives

Vaginal fistulas are a significant health concern in the developing world, where obstetric care continues to be a challenge, and where girls are married far too early. 

Most of these women have a history of a complicated prolonged labour and delivery with inadequate or delayed intervention, and often a history of sexual violence. Vaginal fistulas (FVV) result in urine continuously leaking from the vagina. This profoundly affects a woman’s physical, emotional and social well-being.  

According to the United Nations, there are an estimated 40,000 cases of obstetrical fistulas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Rwankole Hospital (Centre Hospitalier de Rwankole) in Bunia, eastern DRC, has already assisted more than 1,450 women with fistulas since 2006, and is the first hospital in the Ituri Province to offer this specialized surgery. The Hospital is run by the evangelical church (CECA 20), a denomination founded by SIM’s sister mission, Africa Inland Mission (AIM).

Patients are typically at the hospital for 2-3 weeks, depending on the healing process, and may require repeated surgeries to repair the original damage. The compassionate care at Rwankole includes the surgical care from Christian health professionals: surgeon Dr. Claude Idring’i Malasi and his team. Each woman receives a visit from the hospital chaplain, and a female chaplain from Université Shalom de Bunia. Visits occur, if possible pre- and post-operations, to listen to their stories, usually involving multiple losses which often involve the death of the baby, loss of self-image, loss of their husband, family or community support. Praying with each woman and sharing the good news of Jesus’ love for them verbally and with literature is part of the supportive care given.  

The annual goal of this project is to provide surgical intervention for 100 women suffering from FVV and provide compassionate care to each of these women as well.

You can support this vital and life-changing fistula ministry at Rwankole Hospital. Go to

www.sim.ca/projects/RwankoleHospitalFistulaProject

A trust fund has been set up to assist with fistula surgeries and patients. Gifts can be made to the trust (#67020) whose investment return funds fistula work like this or you can give directly to support the fistula work in Rwankole Hospital. (CA 509009)

CHARLOTTE’S STORY

Twenty-two-year-old Charlotte** waits patiently for fistula repair surgery in a ward with 50 beds. She is one of fifty women and children who have come seeking medical intervention for their fistula problems. She became pregnant in primary school as a fifteen-year-old. For some girls, it is rape that leaves them with a pregnancy, but Charlotte does not discuss the circumstances. She had to leave school. There was no marriage with the young man involved, and so she lives with her parents. Due to her young age and physical immaturity, her labour and delivery were long and complicated.  The baby died, and she was left with a fistula (FVV) resulting in continuously leaking urine. For the past 7 years she has lived with this shaming disability and has been ostracized in her village.

However, she found three other women in her village with the same problem, so together, they have come to Rwankole Hospital for surgical help from Dr. Christine (a surgeon from Holland) and Dr. Claude (the Congolese Medical Director).

By Prayer

-       Rwankole Hospital has had no electricity since January - relying on an aging generator to function - so daily life and surgeries are a significant challenge.

-       Charlotte wants to live a normal life, help her parents by setting up a small business selling produce from their fields, and to get married.

*The United Nations Fund for Population Activities

** Name changed

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