Food Security’s Impact on Obstertric Fistula in Ethiopian Women

Rachel Brown


Eradicated a century ago in the developed world, Obstetric Fistula (OF) has been called by the United Nations Population Fund the most devastating of all childbirth injuries. In Ethiopia it affects the lives of 250,000 women, with 8,000 women developing this disorder every year.[1] OF is a hole between the vaginal wall and bladder and/or rectum which renders women incontinent. OF is most commonly the result of obstructed labor caused by small pelvis width, which is the result of a woman’s youth and/or stunted growth. The injury presents itself only in areas where women lack access to maternal health care. Women suffering from OF are often ostracized by their communities and made to live in isolation and misery. While the immediate cause of OF is lack of obstetric care, the underlying cause of the injury is often malnourishment.[2] In Ethiopia, where over 7 million people lack access to safe and nutri­tious food[3], it is essential that food security projects begin targeting women and embrace a more gendered approach, both to improve the overall health of the nation and to prevent the formation of Obstetric Fistula.

[1] BirukTafesse, 2006

[2] Lewis, 2009

[3] Famine Early Warning Systems Network, 2011

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