Child marriage isn’t just a violation of girls rights, it also leaves them vulnerable to many serious health issues. Among these are obstetric fistula - a condition 50,000 to 100,000 women develop worldwide each year.
Obstetric fistula is an abnormal opening that develop between the birth canal and the urinary tract. vesico vaginal fistula (VVF) and obstetric fistula are the common types of fistula in developing countries. When one has a prolonged and obstructed labour may lead to obstetric fistula.
The condition is considered an indicator of poor quality of obstetric care, and in developing countries the condition is unfortunately rampant.
Statistics report that 2 million women in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are living with fistula, and because it is mostly a silent disease, many choose to be conceal their condition and give up hope of ever leading normal lives again.
Many young women and old women who were married off when they were still young live with fistula. Women who are suffering this condition experience constant urinary incontinence which often leads to skin infections, kidney disorders and even death if left untreated.
The stigma attached to fistula sufferers mean that they dread telling their life experiences and they end up living as outcasts in the community. In many places, fistula is still viewed as a curse for sexual immorality .
A condition which disproportionately affects young women
Young girls whose birth canals are still narrow are more likely to experience fistula as the head of the baby presses really hard on the mother’s bladder causing a tear which if not surgically repaired will cause leakage of urine continuously.
"For three years I have lived with fistula, my husband left me when I was 16 years old. For the past three years I haven’t worn any underwear because urine was always leaking. I developed sores on my genitals that never healed - nobody wanted to stay close to me because of the bad smell which usually repelled them off."
"My mother thought I was bewitched because the baby died while I was in labour, it took me 6 hours to get to the nearest clinic, I was in so much pain when I finally arrived the nurses ignored me - in fact they were scolding me for getting pregnant at a tender age. When my husband heard I had delivered a dead baby, he called me a witch"
Nyaradzai’s story is a reflection of many cases of young women living with fistula in Zimbabwe and other developing countries.
Fistula is curable, but awareness is still low in developing countries. If we can eradicate child marriages, we have a greater chance of mitigating all forms of fistula.