Critical care

All-female medical clinic in Kabul treats women whose lives are devastated by fistula

An operating room at the Malalai Maternity hospital in 2007 in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

In Afghanistan, a medical condition known as fistula, rare in the developed world and commonly-cured when it does appear, is affecting thousands of women each year in debilitating ways. An all-female medical team in Kabul is hoping to change that.

Women who have fistula suffer from a hole between their vagina and their bladder or rectum that causes them to leak excretory matter onto their clothes or bedsheets, according to Al Jazeera. The results can be devastating to a woman’s family life, her marriage, her ability to work, and her place in society, as many view the condition and its odor and stains as a punishment from God. The condition is common after childbirth and made worse by poverty, lack of access to good health care, poor education, early marriage, and little choice in family planning. While child marriage is banned under the age of 16 in Afghanistan, many girls are still married off at an age when their pelvises are not developed enough to cope with childbirth. An estimated 3,000 women have fistula each year in in the country.

“We see a lot of girls, maybe around 70 percent, who come in [with fistula] because they gave birth too young,” said Dr. Nafiza, chief surgeon at the Malalai Maternity Hospital, where an all-female team of doctors, nurses, and support staff treats women with fistula. The hospital offers a surgery that can take as little as 30 minutes to repair the hole that causes so many problems for young Afghan women. The fistula team at Malalai has a 95 percent success rate of curing the condition, according to the report. And by curing the condition, the team helps give them back their lives, too.

Read the full story at Al Jazeera.

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