In our focus on the attacks on women’s health here in the United States, we often forget that women in developing countries have it much worse than we do. Take Tanzania for instance. A new article in Ms. Magazine explains that:
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 13,000 women die each year in Tanzania due to labor and pregnancy-related complications, and more than a quarter million more suffer disabling conditions. The country ranks 21st highest maternal mortality rate among African nations. Like its neighbor Uganda, Tanzania is one of the world’s poorest countries, and 75 percent of its population lives in rural areas. Transportation is spotty and health-care facilities are often miles away from local communities, making it extremely difficult for women who experience pregnancy complications—which can include severe hemorrhage, infections, anemia and obstructed labor—to access skilled health care.
Belle Taylor-McGhee, the author of the Ms. article and a board member of EngenderHealth, a nonprofit aimed at increasing women’s access to family planning services worldwide, says that when she visited Tanzania and other sub-Saharan African countries to write the story for Ms., she was astonished by what she saw.
“I have worked on reproductive health care for some time,” says Taylor-McGhee. “My first trip to Africa was part of an EngenderHealth visit to Ethiopia. We were going there to look at women’s access to reproductive health care, the challenges health care providers face, and how those challenges are being addressed by the government and NGOs. The trip was a real eye opener for me. It was the first time that I actually met women who had experienced fistula. Most of the women at the fistula hospital we visited were quite young, under twenty years old, and some were as young as fourteen or fifteen years old.”
Fistula occurs when there is a tear in the vaginal area. Tearing can occur during childbirth, especially if labor is prolonged or there are other complications during childbirth. Fistula is very uncommon in developed countries, but it can occur frequently in countries where women do not have access to quality childbirth facilities. Vaginal tearing can lead to infections, and if this is left untreated, women can die. [Read more...]