Meet Abiar

In her 23 years, Abiar has seen and experienced more sadness than most do in a lifetime. Losing her entire family to civil war in South Sudan in 2011, she married as a way to protect her own life. But soon the worst happened: with no access to health care, food or shelter, she became pregnant.

Abiar's Story

Abiar, from Southern Sudan, is 23 years old. As with so many other girls growing up in this hostile environment riddled with civil war, Abiar had endured so much. The sound of bullets seem practically normal to her.

She was married in 2011 at the age of 17, years after her parents and siblings had been killed during the 2011 civil war. Abiar recounts the tragedy, “I narrowly escaped when I pretended to be dead after I applied my mother’s blood all over me. I didn’t know where to go since all my relatives were on the run for their safety. I decided to get married because all I needed was protection.”

She had protection, but then the worst happened: she became pregnant. With no access to health care or even primary needs like food and shelter. She regularly hid in the bushes, fearing for her safety and that of her unborn child.

“The worst day is when I went in to labor. It was late in the night and my husband, like other men, was on guard. I didn’t have a mobile phone, and it wasn’t safe for me to shout for help. Since it was a matter of life and death, I decided to take a risk to physically look for my husband in thick dark bushes but at some point I couldn’t just continue with the search because of the severity of the labor pains.”

Abiar returned to their temporary shelter, made of tree branches and polythene bags, alone. Since men only came home at dawn, by the time he came back, Abiar had delivered the baby, but the child died in her hands just a few minutes after birth. She was bleeding profusely. With no access to medical help, miraculously, Abiar survived on herbal medicine. But she soon realized that she had begun to leak urine.

Many women who have lived with fistula share their routine of frequently washing the pieces of cloth they use to absorb their leaking urine, and many also report bathing several times in a day to minimize the odor of urine or feces. Abiar had since relocated to a refugee camp but did not have access to clean water, though she longed for it deeply. “Bathing and washing of clothes was a luxury,” she explained, adding “Living in a refugee camp with fistula was a nightmare.”

She suffered for years before finally receiving unsuccessful surgery during a temporary fistula clinic that was offered at her refugee camp. A team at AMREF identified her as a candidate who needed expert level surgery, and then referred her to the Gynocare Women’s and Fistula Hospital in May 2017, a partner of Fistula Foundation’s nationwide Action on Fistula program.

“This is a very fancy hospital,” Abiar explained, recounting the moment she arrived at Gynocare. “I was afraid to walk in when I got to the entrance, but when I got into the fistula ward, I was consoled to see other patients like me.”

Abiar shared her story while recovering from fistula surgery at Gynocare, and is hopeful that this surgery will finally end six years of leaking urine. At the end of the interview, the now 23-year-old shared a heartbreaking story.

“I have been informed that I will never get babies, but I will continue praying that one day we will enjoy peace just like other countries, where children will just be children. I would not have suffered this fate were it not because of the civil war in my country. I don’t have parents, I don’t have a brother or a sister, my baby went and now I will never have one. But if I can be dry again, then life will be worth living.”

About Kenya

  • Population: 45,010,056
  • Average Births per Woman: 3.54
  • Female Literacy: 84.2%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 43.4% (less than $1.25/day)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Kenya

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Florinda

    Angola

    Living in a small village in central Angola, Florinda was married in her teens and became pregnant at 16. Without access to emergency obstetric care, her difficult delivery caused her to develop a fistula. But today, she is smiling again.

  • Bilkis

    Bangladesh

    Bilkis is just 20 years old. She developed an obstetric fistula during the delivery of her first baby. Bilkis delivered under the guidance of a traditional birth attendant who encouraged her to continue her labor at home despite the fact that she had already been in labor for two days.

  • Fistula Foundation - Maria

    Maria

    Zimbabwe

    Maria is 42 years old. She is HIV-positive and currently on antiretroviral therapy. Maria doesn’t have a permanent place to live – she cannot work because of her incontinence, and has no real income to live on. She survives through the ongoing support of her relatives and friends.

  • Salome

    Kenya

    Salome's labor began at night. She sought help from her mother-in-law, who immediately called Salome's husband - by cultural norms, the only one who could give permission for Salome to seek help at a hospital. But he had turned his phone off for the night and was unreachable. Her mother-in-law tried all she could throughout the night to help Salome deliver her child. By the time Salome's husband returned the call the next morning to advise that she be taken immediately to the hospital, it was too late. The baby did not survive, and Salome had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Beauty

    Zambia

    Beauty developed a fistula five years ago after a very complicated delivery. She told doctors at St. Francis Mission Hospital that she prayed every day for a miracle, never knowing that her leaking was actually caused by a medical condition for which free treatment was available.

  • Flavia

    Flavia

    Angola

    Flavia is a shy 17 year old girl who was married when she was just 15. Soon after, she became pregnant. Her labor began at home, but the family was unprepared when the labor became obstructed. Not knowing what to do, they finally took her to a hospital.

  • Dembe

    Uganda

    Dembe did everything right during her pregnancy—she kept up all of her prenatal doctor’s appointments, and made sure that both she and her baby stayed healthy. When her labor began, Dembe walked the 10 kilometers from her home to the nearest heath center. She expected a normal delivery, but tragically, this would not come to pass—Dembe experienced a wrenching, prolonged labor, and her child did not survive.

  • Evelyn

    Kenya

    “It was so painful to leave the hospital with the few clothes I had bought for my baby. It was painful to walk out of the gates empty handed [without a baby] and to worsen the matter, with the leaking of urine."

  • Soazara

    Madagascar

    Soazara's husband abandoned her, because he could not stand her smell. Life became almost unbearable for her.

  • Kabuli, from Afghanistan (photo credit: CURE International)

    Kabuli

    Afghanistan

    Kabuli, from Afghanistan, is the third of four wives. When she developed a fistula after enduring obstructed labor without any emergency medical care, her husband forced her into isolation within his home. Living in shame, Kabuli thought she would be miserable for the rest of her life.

  • Fistula Foundation - Nazneen

    Nazneen

    Pakistan

    Nazneen is a 47 year old mother of six who resides in the Balochistan region of Pakistan. She had been living with fistula for 14 years after experiencing a prolonged labor while giving birth to her sixth child.

  • Christine A.

    Kenya

    Christine loved her husband and bore him six children. But after he died, Christine's life changed when she was forced to marry her eldest brother-in-law, who cared very little for her or her children. She became pregnant with her seventh child, enduring a prolonged labor that left her with obstetric fistula. Her new husband shunned her and kicked her out of her home. But then she found hope.

  • Rahila

    Guinea

    Rahila never had the opportunity to attend school; instead, she sells donuts in the market and farms for a living. She married at age 14 and became pregnant soon thereafter. Unfortunately, Rahila developed obstetric fistula during delivery and was left leaking urine and feces.

  • Wilmina

    Kenya

    “The last 22 years have been years of great pain, loss and very deep sorrows. I lost my baby, later lost my marriage, lost friends, and lost my only family (my parents). Fistula robbed me of everything that I once valued, and I have been left very empty.”

  • Betty

    Kenya

    Betty developed fistula during her first pregnancy, after laboring at home for seven days. Her baby did not survive. Today, she is healthy once again thanks to free surgery provided through the Action on Fistula program.

  • Fistula Foundation - Elizabeth Atieno

    Sylvia

    Kenya

    Pregnant at the age of 13, Sylvia labored for two days before delivering a stillborn baby. She developed obstetric fistula, which led to two decades of shame and sadness. Then one day, she heard a radio announcement that would change her life forever.

  • Harka Maya

    Nepal

    A mother of two, Harka Maya lives in Sindhuli, Nepal, roughly 80 miles (129 km) from Kathmandu. She developed a fistula last summer, while in labor with her third child. Being from a poor farming family, it was customary for her to deliver at home.

  • Felistas

    Kenya

    Felistas developed fistula at the age of 17, after delivering a stillborn baby via Cesarian section. Her husband left her because he could not stand her condition. She suffered alone until learning one day that treatment was available through the Action on Fistula program.