REJECTED by husbands, families and communities, thousands of Ethiopian women lead miserable lives as social outcasts when for just a few dollars they could be treated.
Obstetric fistula develops when a mother’s blood supply is cut off by continuous pressure from the baby’s head during prolonged, obstructed and unassisted labour, which can last five days or more.
The result is nerve damage and incontinence, usually of urine, but at times of faeces.
Usually the baby is stillborn and, at a time when the support of family is most needed, women are rejected due to the offensive smell.
“Prevention is so simple…access to obstetrics and a midwife,” says Fremantle doctor Gracie Vivian.
She and partner Bruno Cordier, a nurse, visited rural hospitals in Ethiopian run by Australian obstetrician Catherine Hamlin, discovering first-hand the impact of fistulas.
“You can’t imagine how they endure it,” Dr Vivian says.
Fundraising for fistulas lacks the warm, fuzzy glow of other worthwhile recipients, such as PMH and Telethon.
But with almost $20,000 of a $50,000 target in the bank Mr Cordier is jumping on his trusty treadly (Jimmy) to ride the Nullarbor from Sydney to Fremantle.
“Completely unassisted—just him and his bike,” Dr Vivian says.
Dashing off for the 3934km ride in five weeks, he’ll arrive home Valentine’s Day (February 14).
Supporters are set to gather for a welcome home picnic at South Beach, 5.30–6.30pm.
Fremantle independent MP Adele Carles, a staunch advocate for local midwifery, has thrown her support behind the endeavour.
“We are so lucky in Australia to have skilled midwives who help safely deliver our babies,” she says.
“I hope women will see Bruno’s campaign as an opportunity to give a few dollars so that women in other countries can have the same chance in life.”
There’s a donation tin on the counter of her office, under the Queensgate carpark and opposite the Fremantle library.