The EngenderHealth News Blog
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

EngenderHealth Receives Award from Manhattan Young Democrats

On March 21, EngenderHealth received an award from the Manhattan Young Democrats (MYD) for our work to improve the quality of reproductive health care around the world. EngenderHealth President Pamela Barnes accepted the award on behalf of the organization at Engendering Progress, MYD’s third annual event honoring women leaders, activists, and entrepreneurs.

MYD is an all-volunteer organization committed to educating and activating young progressives for social change. Also in attendance at the event was Hollaback!, a movement dedicated to ending street harassment using mobile technology, and Catalyst, a nonprofit organization expanding opportunities for women and business.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

True Heroes of the Congo

When Dr. Christophe Kimona treated a young mother for her fistula recently, he repaired more than just her body—she said he restored her spirit.

“I am motivated by compassion for women who have no other sources of support,” Dr. Kimona said. “It is satisfying to aid my fellow countrymen and women.”

His colleagues agree that “it is the work of the heart.”  Dr. Kimona, Dr. Mukwege, Dr. Amisi, Dr. Nembunzu, Dr. Ahuka, Dr. Manga, Dr. Mubikayi, Dr. Tchangou, Dr. Denon, Dr. Aime-Manga—these are the names of some of the dedicated surgeons who are healing women living with obstetric fistula in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They are few in number.

Patients come to them in despair, many having been abandoned by their husbands or family and sometimes having lost their will to live. Many have endured years of isolation because of their fistula, a devastating condition in which a hole develops between the birthing canal and the bladder or rectum, causing chronic incontinence. Fistula can result from prolonged or obstructed labor when women lack access to emergency obstetric care.  In the Eastern Congo, a region plagued by years of conflict, fistula has also been caused by sexual violence. 

Yet, in the face of the most difficult circumstances, these surgeons, together with their teams of nurses, anesthetists, social workers, and administrators, find a way every day to restore dignity and hope for women.

These are the individuals whom U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calls “true heroes” in the Congo—a selfless breed of surgeons, nurses, and other staff who dedicate themselves to giving women with fistula a second chance at a fulfilling, productive life.
A Community of Practice

Last week, for the third year in a row, these surgeons came together with staff from the Ministry of Health and others who provide care and advocate for women with fistula to review progress in providing these services in the Congo. Coinciding with International Women’s Day, the March 8-9 meeting was hosted by Fistula Care (managed by EngenderHealth and funded by USAID) and Panzi Hospital, a facility supported by the project in Bukavu, South Kivu Province of Eastern Congo. 

On March 8, Secretary Clinton sent a message to the participants, commending them for their dedication: “Facing difficult challenges every single day, the surgeons and health care providers at this meeting are truly heroes, committed to supporting Congolese women and girls by providing the high-quality fistula services that are desperately needed to restore health, dignity, and lives.”

The community of practice (CoP) included fistula surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, social workers, and administrators, many of whom are women and all of whom work in fistula repair and prevention. Also present were local partners, Ministry of Health representatives, and global players such as the United Nations Population Fund, World Health Organization, and U.S. Agency for International Development.

Fistula Prevention, Surgeon Training, and a National Strategy for Fistula

Participants discussed the successes and obstacles of working in an environment where access to resources for surgical care is challenging. The surgeons emphasized time and again the importance of increasing access to quality emergency obstetric services to prevent fistula from happening in the first place. Mme Lucie Zikudieka from PROSANI, a USAID-funded integrated health project, reviewed with participants the recent national revision to the partograph and the plans for its introduction. The tool is used to monitor and manage women in labor and delivery to ensure that appropriate actions are taken if complications arise. 

Professor Serigne Magueye Gueye, an eminent Senegalese urologist, led a discussion on training fistula surgeons and introduced a recently completed, internationally recognized Competency-based Training Manual for Fistula Surgery. Participants agreed on the need for a formalized training strategy for fistula surgery as part of a national strategy to address obstetric fistula, which participants also reviewed.  Women’s health advocates have long fought for a high-level plan, which would establish policies to increase access to quality fistula services.

In all, the annual CoP meetings have provided a space for surgeons, practitioners, and policy makers to work together toward a unified vision for addressing obstetric fistula. Dr. Denis Mukwege, Founder and Director of Panzi Hospital, made an impassioned plea to the Ministry of Health to urgently finalize and implement the strategy. Every day of delay means more women continue to experience this devastating condition.  Fistula Care will work with the Ministry and other key stakeholders to advance the strategy within the next few months. For more information, visit

Friday, March 9, 2012

EngenderHealth’s Postabortion Care Work Wins Spot in Top 50 Ideas for Women & Girls

EngenderHealth’s postabortion care work has earned a spot on Women Deliver’s Top 50 most inspiring ideas and solutions for women and girls around the world.

Launched in honor of International Women’s Day, the competition saw hundreds of submissions from 103 countries. More than 6,000 individuals voted for their favorite ideas and solutions. Thank you to all of our supporters who voted for us and made this happen!

Our Work in Postabortion Care

For nearly two decades, EngenderHealth has partnered with developing country Ministries of Health to strengthen and modernize health systems to provide effective postabortion care. Abortion is severely restricted throughout most of the developing world, where more than half of all induced abortions are unsafe. Performed by unskilled people, often in unsanitary environments, such abortions account for roughly 46,500 deaths per year.

EngenderHealth’s programs have trained more than 15,000 clinicians—from community-based health workers to physicians—to use low-tech, lifesaving tools, such as manual vacuum aspirators and misoprostol, for treatment of complications from abortion. Healthcare providers are trained to provide counseling for family planning and referrals for other reproductive health services to improve women’s health over the long term. With timely care from a trained provider, this program prevents the needless deaths of thousands of women from unsafe abortion.

For more on our postabortion care work, visit our website.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On the Hill: Recent Legislative Actions for Women’s Reproductive Health and Rights

The U.S. Senate last month addressed a number of issues affecting the health and rights of women and girls, including a bill against child marriage passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to renew the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), as well as a new campaign by Democratic Senators, One Million Strong for Women, in response to recent political attacks on women’s health and rights.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Passes Child Marriage Bill
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bill seeking to protect girls in developing countries by ending child marriage. Introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Olympia Snow (R-ME), the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (S.414) would require the U.S. government to develop a strategy toward ending the practice and authorize the President to provide assistance to reduce child marriage. In late 2012, a similar bill passed unanimously in the Senate but was blocked in the House of Representatives.

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Landmark Domestic Violence Bill
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to reauthorize the U.S. Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a landmark and historically bipartisan bill first signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The bill (S.1925) seeks to improve law enforcement’s capacity to respond to reports of domestic violence and sexual assault and to improve protections for victims. In 2000 and 2005, the bill was reauthorized with bipartisan support. But this year, for first time, the bill received a party-line vote of 10-8 in committee. The legislation is now on the calendar for consideration by the full Senate.

Congressional Democrats Launch “One Million Strong for Women” Campaign
In a collective response to recent attacks on women’s health and rights, including abortion rights, contraception, and Planned Parenthood, 16 Democratic senators and representatives have launched One Million Strong for Women, a campaign that reaffirms their commitment to protecting women’s health and rights. To date, nearly 270,000 people have signed the campaign in support of the cause.