Hadja Mariama Moussa remembers a young woman who cradled her newborn baby after receiving a cesarean section at Lamordé Hospital, a site that receives support from Fistula Care. Two years earlier, this same woman came to Lamordé Hospital for fistula treatment. At that time, she believed that she would never have a normal life. As she held her new baby, the woman could only smile. Twelve women awaiting fistula treatment looked on at her and got a glimpse of what life could be after fistula repair.
Experiences like this inspire Mrs. Moussa to keep working in her complicated, multifaceted, demanding job as the coordinator of Niger’s Network to Eradicate Fistula (REF), a project that coordinates the activities of nongovernmental organizations, government agencies, and community groups. REF aims to prevent and treat fistula and to help women recovering or living with fistula to reintegrate into society. These activities are much-needed, as Niger’s maternal health conditions are among the worst in the world.
Mrs. Moussa works with the REF staff to address fistula and maternal health from many different angles. She creates and trains committees to educate communities about maternal health and fistula prevention. To reach wider audiences, she works with radio announcers to create educational programming. Mrs. Moussa develops training programs for providers who offer care to women with fistula and works with state officials to raise awareness and build capacity to treat the condition. She aims to improve communications between health centers and communities, so that women living with fistula know that treatment is available.
Mrs. Moussa believes that REF’s work is starting to have an impact and that more and more women are coming out to receive treatment. Also, men are increasingly helping their wives to travel to centers for treatment. However, challenges remain. Many women struggle to find treatment; some women must travel by a cart or a donkey if they cannot take the bus. Other women must pay for gas if they take an ambulance. Mrs. Moussa’s dedication and enthusiasm allow her to successfully advocate for women despite the obstacles.