#Wefightfistula: one congressperson at a time

Drew Brady, Senior Writer

“Obstetric fistula” is a term that has evaded the vocabulary of many Americans. To senior Akielly Hu, who works with the organization One by One which focuses on changing maternal health legislation in America and overseas, obstetric fistula is a debilitating injury that is completely treatable.

Because of the lack of medical attention given to mothers in developing countries, the obstruction that leads to obstetric fistula is found mainly in African countries. Obstetric fistula happens when a mother is left unattended during labor, leaving her incontinent, which means she has no control over urination or defecation. This injury can kill the child being delivered. In addition to the physical anguish, obstetric fistula forces the mother into social isolation because the father often leaves the mother after she injures herself.

Fistula used to be a widespread issue in America, but quickly disappeared thanks to the establishment of hospitals specifically created to treat fistula planted around the country. It is an easily avertable injury which is one reason why Hu has showed her support.

“I especially feel strong about it because it’s so preventable. Over 90 percent of fistula cases can be repaired,” Hu said.

Hu, working with One by One, has taken many steps to bring attention to and end fistula, including meeting with global health workers and professors at the University of Washington about global maternal health, and even writing policy proposals for various maternal health issues.

Hu encourages people to research the subject as she did through organizations like One by One.

“I was looking for a program related to maternal and child health. I did a program at Seattle BioMed about infectious diseases, and I wanted to see the other aspect of maternal and child health, and then I found this organization and I read their website,” Hu said.

In order to fix this condition, people must be capable of properly delivering a child. The main issue causing the fistula epidemic is the lack of education among mothers and birth attendants. To emphasize the importance of competent birth attendants, Hu provided an account of a drastically unconventional birth method, where a midwife sat on top of a woman’s stomach to try to get the baby out.

Though Hu will not be able to attend, a group of ‘One by One’ members will be travelling to Olympia to lobby for the Female Genital Mutilation Bill.

Apart from supporting ‘One by One’ and its Young Global Leaders Program, Hu recommends being politically aware of maternal health bills and initiatives in the United States.