Saturday, January 20, 2007

Teenage pregnancy complications in Ethiopia

US National Public Radio has a disturbing story about a frequent but serious condition faced by teenage (and even pre-teen) girls giving birth in Ethiopia. The condition is called fistula which I won't describe here but, while not physically life threatening, is very humiliating and often causes girls who suffer from it to be treated as social outcasts. (Of course, it's society that does that not the condition itself)

The condition is preventable and rarely occurs in western countries, but poverty and the brain drain make it more common than it should be in East Africa. As the report noted:

"Poverty is why the little girl of 2 is taught to carry a water jar. It's a small water jar, but by the age of 8, she is carrying weights I cannot carry. So then by the age of 10, 11, 12, she is carrying all the wood for cooking, all the water for cooking and washing purposes," [Addis Ababa midwife Ruth] Kennedy says.
"This consumes enormous calories for this small child, and her consumption intake of calories is not enough," she says. "The little girl loses stature. Her bony pelvis is small"
which makes injury during childbirth more likely.

The report added that there are more Ethiopian doctors in the city of Washington, DC than there are in all of Ethiopia.

Update: The day after, NPR also had a segment on an interesting innovation in Uganda: medical co-operatives.

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