Sierra Leone is among the most dangerous places in the world to bear children, with one of the highest rates of maternal mortality. In 2010 the Sierra Leonean government announced that antenatal, postnatal, and delivery care would all be free of charge, so the current challenge is to meet the demand for services without sacrificing quality. Rural women often struggle to access health services, for example lacking the means for transportation to health clinics when emergency care is needed.
In Sierra Leone, EngenderHealth’s focus is addressing fistula, a vaginal injury usually caused from prolonged labor without timely medical attention. Through the USAID-funded Fistula Care project, EngenderHealth supports the Aberdeen Women’s Centre (AWC) in the capital city, Freetown, dedicated to providing surgical repair for women suffering from fistula and to preventing fistula and maternal death through the provision of quality obstetric care, including round-the-clock cesarean sections. The Aberdeen Women’s Centre has repaired hundreds of women and trained more than 150 nurses in pre- and post-operative care and obstetric emergency response.
Fistula Care supports the AWC to raise awareness about fistula in local communities throughout the country, explaining how to prevent the injury and referring women for treatment. Women who have had a fistula repair are offered family planning counseling, physiotherapy, and the opportunity to participate in basic life skills programs to ease their reintegration back into society and improve their chances for better economic livelihoods.