This study aimed to describe the characteristics of women supported by the Integrated Family Health Program in Ethiopia to obtain fistula repair services, in particular their experience in reaching repair services and their wiliness to participate in efforts to prevent and treat fistula. Individual interviews were conducted with women who had been admitted for fistula repair and who had received support from IFHP.
The study found that 14% of the women said that they had no source of emotional support after they experienced fistula and 17.7% of them were supporting themselves financially. In terms of treatment, half of the women had only heard about the availability of treatment within the past 3 months and two thirds had heard about it within the past year. However, almost one-third of women had learned about the availability of repair more than one year before reaching the facility for treatment and women who did not seek care immediately after finding out about treatment availability either did not know where to go (34.1%) or did not have money or a means of transport (37.0%). Finally, many of the patients were interested in participating in community mobilization efforts.
Overall, these descriptive data on the women who were supported by IFHP to obtain fistula repair services show that IFHP is successfully reaching women in need of repair, women who are suffering economic and social consequences of fistula. They also reinforce that these women are a potential resource for future work to both prevent fistula by ensuring that women and communities understand the factors that lead to fistula and how to avoid them, as well as to reach out to women suffering from fistula to ensure that they are identified more rapidly and provided with access to these life altering services.