Due to an extreme lack of human resources to serve the health needs of rural communities in developing nations, millions of women give birth to children with no trained support or medical assistance. While the human resource problem is massive and complex to tackle, I have an idea to help ameliorate the situation.
Obstetric fistula is a tragic result of unassisted childbirth, as the increased pressure of prolonged or obstructed labor renders numberless women incontinent across the developing world. Surgery can repair most fisutlas, and surgical units and hospitals have expanded considerably in recent years. Having worked in such a facility in Niger, I have seen first hand the excellence of care given to women as their fistula is repaired and they face a new life of dignity.
Post-operative care in these hospitals is usually accompanied by brief instructional meetings, informing women how to prevent fistula in the future. Often women are even trained as nurses to stay and help at the fistula treatment centers. What I propose is to expand this educational element of post-op fistula care, and provide any willing woman with a more comprehensive training on how to prevent fistula and ensure safe pregnancy and labor not only for her, but for her entire community. The program should not be compulsory, but should be open to any woman who wants to be a TBA, nurse, or midwife in their communities. The facilities I worked at Niger, ONG Dimol and l'Hopital National, had Peace Corps volunteers and nurses who were already engaged in helping teach women the basics of healthcare. If there are women who have had some previous education and are willing to go further with health education, it would be incredibly impactful both for them and their communities to receive more comprehensive training as a community health worker.