“Why do women have to leak for thirty long years before finally finding their way to us?” said Dr. Shershah Syed, President of the Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health (PNFWH).

While on a visit to Pakistan, we had the opportunity to meet a key partner organization working with Dr. Anita Zaidi and her VITAL Pakistan team. This organization, named Koohi Goth Hospital, was established in 2005 and is a project of the Zafar and Atiya Foundation Charitable Trust. This is a family foundation with generations of physicians who are all heart and soul, and deeply committed to vulnerable and underprivileged communities serving poor women and children.

Originally displayed on the Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health website.

While touring the Koohi Goth facility and learning more about their work, we had the opportunity to spend some time with the amazing and inspiring Dr. Shershah Syed and his team which included Dr. Saboohi Mehdi and Sarwan Kumar. Dr. Syed shared with us the rich family history that has infused his profession. The foundation’s work is unwavering in its commitment to education and health. One of the most striking features shared was the lack of payment for services provided while at Koohi Goth Hospital, a true indication of their mission to provide care for the poor and under-served at no cost.

Koohi Goth Hospital Tour

At its essence, the fundamental belief in the human dignity of each person they service and that education and health are basic human rights became evident as we walked the corridors of the hospital,  meeting women of all ages that were being trained as community health workers, midwives, technicians etc. Their and training being provided free of cost and in fact students were rewarded with a living area and a stipend/scholarships during their stay. The emphasis on human dignity was most profound as the discussion shifted to stories of women that experienced obstetric fistula. See story below.

Koohi Goth Education and Training

Koohi Goth Hospital offers fistula services and have also incorporated a social integration program to further help the women cope with the depression associated to their experience. In fact, the origins of Koohi Goth Hospital focused on the taboo disease known as the Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF), Recto Vaginal Fistula (RVF) among other gyno-related problems. Koohi Goth Hospital continues to actively work towards the elimination of RVF and VVF and the protection women from other labor related complications and gynecologic diseases.

What’s a fistula or an obstetric fistula?

Obstetric fistula is a connection between the vagina and rectum or bladder that is a direct consequence of prolonged or obstructed labor. Women are left incontinent (having no or insufficient voluntary control) of urination or defecation. This condition can be extremely stigmatizing and difficult to live with, leaving these women incapable of leading normal lives.

Why is there an international day to end it?

Because this is a preventable condition that chronically affects some of the most poor and marginalized women in the world, women who live in rural areas where in obstetric care is poor, or non-existent, and skilled labor is difficult to reach. This type of childbirth-related devastation can be fully spared.

Obstetric History Lesson at Koohi Goth Hospital
Obstetric History Lesson at Koohi Goth Hospital

How many women are affected?

According to the World Health Organization, between 50,000 to 100,000 women worldwide develop obstetric fistula each year. However, these estimates are based on scanty data and need to be updated. According to the Fistula Foundation, over one million women suffering from obstetric fistula worldwide. Fistula is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

The Koohi Goth facility is a 200-bed healthcare center, with about 70-beds currently functional, and providing Obstetric & Gynecological services at no charge and without any discrimination of race, color, caste, or creed. Located in the outskirts of Karachi and conveniently built only 2 kilometers from the National Highway, the hospital serves as a true oasis for maternal health and women’s health in Pakistan. The facility is staffed 24-hours a day by world and country renown specialists like Dr. Shershah Syed, founder of Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health, who volunteer their time in order to improve maternal health and save the lives of women and children.

Koohi Goth Hospital Courtyard
Koohi Goth Hospital Courtyard

We want to honor the work of Dr. Syed, his incredible and noble family, and all the staff at Koohi Goth Hospital for the transformative work they are doing every single day. No woman should have to endure the pain, suffering, and social ostracization that follows an obstetric fistula. Working in collaboration, we can save more lives, and help improve the health of women and children who most need it. Thank you!