Giraffe will host gathering to aid African women

Islanders who would like to help improve the health and lives of many women in Africa can do so next week when Giraffe opens its doors for an evening dedicated to ending fistula.

In recent years, public awareness has grown about fistulas, which are injuries that occur to girls and women during prolonged childbirth where obstetrical care is not available.

The injuries typically result in the death of the baby and cause the women to leak urine or feces. The women and girls are then blamed for what has happened to them and are shunned by their communities, according to Islander Kathleen Davis, a medical doctor and one of the organizers of the event.

“Fistula is really a problem of the poorest of the poor in the most remote areas,” she said.

Left untreated, the girls and women face a host of continuing medical problems, including infections, kidney disease and early death.

Islanders can help reach those women by attending the evening at Giraffe, which will include learning about fistula and raising funds to support One by One, a Seattle organization working to end the traumatic injuries. Davis is on the nonprofit’s board; Islander Ann Lewis, who works in global health, and Priscilla Schleigh, who owns Giraffe, will join her in hosting the event.

One by One supports projects in Niger, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya that work to prevent fistula, treat it and help women re-enter their communities.

Surgery is up to 90 percent successful in curing fistulas. Roughly $400 is needed to cover the cost of one fistula surgery and the necessary after-care and rehabilitation, Davis said.

To that end, 10 percent of the purchases at Giraffe that evening will go to One by One. Guests are also welcome to make additional donations. People who are interested in the issue but cannot contribute are welcome too, Davis said.

The event will run from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 8. There will be music, African refreshments and a presentation about One by One and its work.

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