Yesterday I visited a 22 year old woman named Mulu Shiferw. She lives in a remote villiage called Hinta outside of a small town called Gidjit (about two hours north of Mekelle). She developed an obsteric fistula after being in labor in her home for 5 days. Her oldest sister and husband (her parents passed away) refused to let her go to the health clinic during her labor, believing that Saint Mary would ensure a safe delivery. People in the village started to get concerned and eventually a health officer was called to visit her hut. Her family refused to let her go to the clinic, so a police officer was called to help carry her out of the village. At the clinic in Gidjit, she was cared for by a midwife. Unfortunately, she lost her baby due to the obstructed labor. Her specific problem was that she did not know to urinate prior to labor, so the pressure of her baby’s head on her bladder caused the tear/fistula. I interviewed her and her husband (of one year). Although they were visibly very upset, they believed that the problem is a sign from God. Because they had no knowledge of proper mother mobilization, they didn’t know that anything could go wrong…believing that Saint Mary would keep her safe. Now, they say, they are educated and can inform others in their area of safe delivery practices. Mulu is lucky. Her husband is being supportive. Most husbands leave their wives if she develops fistula. Once she is healed (usually around 3 months), she can go to the Mekelle Fistula Hospital for surgery. Then she will volunteer to be a safe motherhood ambassador for her village (through the NGO “Healing Hands of Joy…as mentioned in previous post). Although she is trying to look on the bright side of things, she was noticeably depressed and sad. I will write a more in depth account of our visit soon.
I’ve had a sinus infection for a week and it’s really starting to take its toll. I found some very inexpensive over the counter amoxicillin and hopefully that will help. The morning I went to visit Mulu started out kind of rough. After hitting up all of the gas stations in Mekelle and finding either no fuel or a line of waiting vehicles a mile long, we wondered if we would get out of town at all. Two and half hours after our set out time we were on our way. The road was bumpy and dusty, as are many here in Ethiopia, but beautiful nevertheless. After driving about 2 hours we starting asking locals if they new the home of “Mulu Shiferw” and eventually were able to park and walk to her home with the help of a woman we found walking alongside the road named Tekel Tesfay. She is the women’s association chairman for the village and was happy to guide us to Mulu’s home. There we were welcomed by Mulu’s friends and family. I was accompanied to the village by the program coordinator for Healing Hands of Joy, the health extension worker that found Mulu in labor, the midwife from Gidjit who cared for Mulu in the town and a fellow photojournalist friend who I am traveling with named Jonathan Hanson. We were treated to an Ethiopian porridge and butter ring, a delicious coffee ceremony and a large helping of injera. It was an unforgettable experience. They do not see many foreigners (if any) and a couple of small children even started screaming and crying when they saw us walking up the path. Everyone else was incredibly warm and welcoming. I plan on continuing coverage in this region in the future.
*Many thanks to Jonathan Hanson for videoing the interviews conducted here in the Tigray region and to Atsede, from Healing Hands of Joy, for her collaboration and support.