In Sunday’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof writes about a medical center in Danja, Niger, where heroic surgeons do fistula repairs on women from the age of 12 up.
I apologize if this is distressing and unexpected to read — fistulas are tears between the urinary tract and the vagina, caused when girls of nowhere-near adult size have babies (many of whom die in the process as they are unable to pass through the birth canal and modern medical care like Caesareans are not available). These pregnancies are often a result of the girls’ first ovulation, as they have been married off before their first menstrual cycle and are almost instantly impregnated.
These “women” are then shunned and ostracized, put out of their homes by their husbands, and forced to scrabble for an existence in a town that mocks them and forbids them from even gathering water from a public well if anyone else is around.
Kristof has written about this before, and NYTimes readers contributed upwards of half a million dollars to funding this medical center and paying the staff. He is writing about women going there to find healing and hope, while recounting how one of the patients, upon completion of her surgery, returned to the home of her uncle/husband, who immediately demanded he return to her bed, in effect raped her, and ripped open the fistula again. She is back at the hospital for a second surgery.
These funds raised, this center, these doctors, are all doing good things for people who obviously and desperately need it. But wouldn’t it do even more good if some of that money and time were spent advocating for these CHILDREN, preventing marriage before the age of 18, and giving these girls/women a place to live for 6 months until their surgeries fully heal so that they aren’t just re-injured, as happens so often?
Does anyone know how to create/contribute to such a thing? I certainly don’t have Nick Kristof’s audience.