Every year around half a million women, mostly from developing countries, die in childbirth and almost three times as many are left with injuries, predominantly preventable, as a result of labour.
One of the most devastating of these injuries is obstetric fistula.
During a difficult and often unsuccessful birth a hole develops in the bladder leaving the woman, already exhausted and grieving, leaking urine.
She is continuously wet, her clothes stink, and her skin breaks out in sores.
She is seen as unfit for society and is often faced with a life of isolation and shame.
For the past four years, INF has organised medical camps to heal these women and combat the stigma they bear.
To mark International Women's Day today we share the story of Deepshila Upadaya (58) just one of 32 women served by INF at a Fistula camp in Surkhet, which, running since the end of February, has so far performed 42 dignity-restoring procedures.
Deepshila has had a difficult life, unfortunately not so uncommon among her generation of women in the remote and difficult district of Bajura.
Married at a young age she had her first baby when she was 15. She now has two daughters and a son, the only survivors from 18 pregnancies!
During her third delivery, when she was 22 years-old, she encountered difficulties. The baby was stuck and couldn’t be delivered. For three days she endured labour without success. Then a village health worker arrived and removed the stillborn child.
This experience left her scarred and damaged. She had a fistula from her bladder to her vagina which meant urine constantly leaked. This caused sores and ulcers to develop.
In addition, the nerves to her legs were traumatised and she had terrible pain shooting down her legs and was unable to walk properly or work.
Due to the constant leakage, she always smelled of stale urine and was terribly embarrassed.
She wasn’t welcome at community events because of the odour which inevitably accompanied her. Weddings, naming days and the myriad of festivals which brighten up the Nepali existence were off limits to her.
She became very depressed, always crying. After more than 30 years, the pain of this is still very fresh and remembering this period still causes her to cry.
Fortunately, her husband continued to love her and cared for her as much as he could, but it was not enough to relieve her distress.
Then this February, through a community health worker, Deepshila heard about the INF fistula camp in Surkhet.
Desperate to find relief from this debilitating condition she walked for four days to catch a bus to Surkhet.
At one point while walking through snow she slipped and fell, spraining her left ankle. She continued on and finally arrived at Surkhet with her 15-year old son.
Deepshila was operated on and is now recovering and should make a full recovery, which will not only relieve physical pain but restore dignity allowing her, for the first time in over thirty years, to have an active role in the life of her community.
This International Women's Day we ask you to:
PRAY: please pray for Deepshila's continued recovery. Pray for all the women served by the current Fistula Camp in Surkhet and for those working in the camp. Pray for the work of INF with Nepali women.
GIVE: please donate to the work of INF so INF's vision to bring life in its fullness to Nepalis is fulfilled.
GO: if you think you'd like to serve Nepalis with INF please contact your nearest INF office.