Sadly, Ethiopia has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world. 15% of the approximately 29 million women living in rural, mountainous areas of Ethiopia experience serious complications during childbirth. For a woman in obstructed labor, the nearest doctor able to perform a cesarean section may be over 200 miles away. In Ethiopia alone, about 9,000 women develop fistula each year. An obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and adjoining organs, and is caused by unrelieved, prolonged or obstructed labor, often lasting from 1 to 7 days. Because of the wetness and odor caused by their constantly leaking urine, these women are often shunned from their home villages, and are ignored or abandoned with no support and no means for survival, until someone tells them that a cure awaits them in places such as Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.
During a week in the summer of 2007, I photographed the surgical and counseling work being done at Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, and its branch facilities throughout Ethiopia, in an effort to capture the internal and psychological injuries many women sustained while giving birth.
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The Fistula Foundation
United Nations Population Fund- Campaign to End Fistula
World Health Organization