Thursday, March 10, 2011

Childbirth Injuries and Midwifery: Speaking From the Heart

Doctors Catherine and Reginald Hamlin
during their early days in Ethiopia.
By: Abel Tadesse
March 10, 2011

March 8th is celebrated as International Women’s Day. Most of us celebrate the women in our lives daily. Whether it is calling our mothers to say thank you or expressing the love we have for our sisters, we all have different forms to show our appreciation to the women in our lives. As we celebrated and recognized women’s day, for many mothers in developed countries, pregnancy is the most exciting time as they look forward to growing life within their body and then bringing it to the world.

This is not the case in many developing countries like Ethiopia especially in rural areas where a mother-to-be can experience an agonizing weeklong labor all by herself. I recently watched a trailer for a documentary called A Walk to Beautiful where a woman expressed how her pregnancy, which led to a weeklong labor, ruined her marriage as it resulted in a childbirth injury called obstetric fistula. The husband noticed her condition, which includes loosing functions of the bladder, so he decided to leave her to marry another woman. It was unbearable to watch the complete trailer, and note this is not even the whole documentary! I kept on telling myself that these are the mothers and sisters of my own in Ethiopia. What was even worse about seeing the horrors of obstetric fistula is that this childbirth injury was eradicated from the U.S. in 1895.

EGI President Samuel M. Gebru (in suit) poses with Dr.
Catherine Hamlin (right) in August 2006 at the Addis
Ababa Fistula Hospital.
For me, understanding the condition of fistula really is an eye opener and I believe individuals like you and I can take actions together to eradicate this traumatic childbirth injury in Ethiopia as well as other developing countries. Using our own skills, we can make pregnancy and childbirth "a joyful experience" as Dr. Catherine Hamlin, founder of the Hamlin Fistula Hospitals of Ethiopia, defined it. For me, my action first started when I joined the Ethiopian Global Initiative, fully supporting the Midwives Scholarship Fund. The mission of the project is to improve access to healthcare education, specifically midwifery as it is found to be a sustainable solution to improve the areas of maternal and child health. The success of this program will help build the foundation stronger, and further increase the amount of Ethiopia’s healthcare professionals. The project is raising funds to sponsor eight women at the Hamlin College of Midwives in Ethiopia.

It may be difficult for one to fully commit to volunteering as we all have our own personal endeavors, but I am a strong believer that the smallest contribution counts for the success of the EGI Midwives Scholarship Fund. In the long run, the eradication of obstetric fistula, turning a woman's worst experience during childbirth to a joyful celebration, is a goal for us when each International Women’s Day comes by.

Just as I have joined, helping expand the Ethiopian Global Initiative’s mission in expanding education for health, I invite you and your friends to do so.

Visit the EGI Midwives Scholarship Fund webpage by clicking here. Abel Tadesse holds a Master in Health Sciences degree from George Mason University and is Project Manager of the EGI Midwives Scholarship Fund. 

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