The conflict in northern Ethiopia has disproportionately impacted women, with its effect on maternal health services having devastating consequences.
Elilta was 25 years old when she became pregnant. She lives in the Amhara region in a town called Meket in northern Ethiopia, fearfully close to the ongoing conflict. Supported by her husband, Elilta attended all her antenatal check-ups and planned to deliver at the health centre.
Days before her delivery date, and what should have been the happiest day of Elilta’s life, the health centre was targeted and destroyed.
Elilta had no other option but to deliver her baby at home.
For four excruciatingly endless days Elilta squatted, cried, and prayed for her baby to be born. The trauma of this agonising obstructed labour was just too great for her unborn baby.
During the weeks that followed, suffering with the grief of her stillborn child, Elilta realised something else was seriously wrong. She had suffered an obstetric fistula.
This appalling chronic condition, caused by a tear or hole in the delicate tissue between a woman’s birth canal and bladder or rectum following a long, obstructed labour, can ruin a woman’s life. For Elilta, her fistula left her continuously incontinent, ashamed to leave the house, and dreading what her future would hold.
It was six months before Elilta was able to seek medical help.
After her months of suffering, Elilta was treated by a team of highly skilled surgeons who operated and healed Elilta free of charge.
Helping more women access maternal healthcare
Elilta’s story does not end here. She has now trained as a Safe Motherhood Ambassador. Elilta received counselling to cope with her trauma and met other women who could understand her pain. Together they were given the training and equipment to be able to raise awareness of maternal healthcare services available and help more women give birth safely.
Safe Motherhood Ambassadors like Elilta reach on average 94 other women with their life-saving maternal health education, helping them access vital antenatal care, and preventing fistula cases from happening in the first place.
Nothing can take away the pain of losing a child, or the pain of what could and should have been.
But we can make a difference through training more midwives, skilled birthing attendants and Safe Motherhood Ambassadors. Our maternal health partners are working to find and treat women who are living with fistulas and improve access to maternal healthcare for women across Ethiopia.
Help save the lives of women and babies today.