Without access to proper obstetric care, women in developing nations can spend days in agonising labour before finally delivering a stillborn child. For those who survive, many develop the debilitating condition known as obstetric fistula.
When prolonged labour or other trauma causes a fistula, or hole, to form between the bladder and vagina, women find the constant trickle of urine, and sometimes faeces, makes normal life impossible.
Onboard ships and at a dedicated land-based clinic in West Africa, Mercy Ships performs free fistula repair surgeries for affected women. The healed patients are given new outfits and headdresses as symbols of their restored life.