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Caring for Rwanda’s Survivors of Gender-Based Violence: Martine’s* parents brought her to one of Rwanda’s Isange One Stop Centers that provide health services for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV). It was there that GBV officers trained by USAID  –  physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists and police - discovered that the young girl had an obstetric fistula as a result of sexual assault.

Fistula is an abnormal opening in the birth canal resulting in uncontrollable, constant leakage of urine and/or feces, a relatively rare condition that can cause permanent incontinence and serious health complications. Typically, fistula is a complication of prolonged, obstructed labor, but it can also result from sexual violence (traumatic fistula). High rates of sexual violence against children and adolescents not only increase their risk of fistula, but also of death, disability, unintended pregnancies, miscarriage, HIV and mental health issues.

In Rwanda, USAID partners with the Ministry of Health to make system-wide improvements to all aspects of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health service delivery. This includes addressing the serious health impacts of GBV, which about 40 percent of all Rwandan women have experienced. Key to the success of these efforts is ensuring that services are talking to each other and working in coordination.

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Caring for Rwanda’s Survivors of Gender-Based Violence: Martine’s* parents brought her to one of Rwanda’s Isange One Stop Centers that provide health services for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV). It was there that GBV officers trained by USAID  –  physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists and police - discovered that the young girl had an obstetric fistula as a result of sexual assault.Fistula is an abnormal opening in the birth canal resulting in uncontrollable, constant leakage of urine and/or feces, a relatively rare condition that can cause permanent incontinence and serious health complications. Typically, fistula is a complication of prolonged, obstructed labor, but it can also result from sexual violence (traumatic fistula). High rates of sexual violence against children and adolescents not only increase their risk of fistula, but also of death, disability, unintended pregnancies, miscarriage, HIV and mental health issues.