I am a photographer and public health graduate student living in the United States. In 2012 I was hired to work as a photojournalist at an obstetric fistula clinic at Bwaila Maternity Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Obstetric fistula is a preventable condition that affects an estimated two million women in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. It can occur during obstructed labor, a leading cause of maternal mortality, when a pregnant woman has insufficient access to a safe cesarean section. The pressure of the fetus' head can cause a hole in the woman's bladder or rectum, and in most cases the fetus dies. Women with obstetric fistula leak urine and/or feces until they are able to have the relatively quick surgery needed. They often face social isolation, discrimination, and unemployment, and can experience additional medical problems as a result of their condition.
I had the honor of spending three months documenting the stories of patients who came seeking help from the clinic. Some had recently become afflicted with fistula during their first pregnancy, while others had lived with this condition for decades.
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Freedom from Fistula Foundation;
University of North Carolina;
Bwaila Maternity Hospital;
Centers for Disease Control