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Meet Dembe

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.

Dembe's Story

Dembe* became pregnant at the young age of 17, and was forced to leave her education behind. In Dembe’s community, girls who become pregnant are kicked out of school, to make an example out of them for other female students.

The man who impregnated Dembe asked her to have an abortion, but she flatly refused. As the pregnancy progressed, he finally saw that she was serious about raising the child, and became supportive.

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.

“I was shattered! Completely heartbroken,” Dembe said. When she returned home, she realized that she was leaking urine. Dembe remembers sitting as still as possible, trying to reduce the leakage. But try as she might, she could still see fluid running down her thighs and legs, her dress wet. She started padding herself with cloth to hide the incontinence.

A few of Dembe’s neighbors heard about her condition and had compassion. They connected her with a community health worker, who searched and searched for resources to help Dembe. After some time, the health worker reported wonderful news: a nearby group was screening for fistula patients. Dembe went right away, and was soon transported to CoRSU Hospital, Fistula Foundation’s partner in Uganda.

After a successful repair surgery, Dembe is finally dry. “I thank God so much for the amazing people from Fistula Foundation and CoRSU, for treating me and giving me hope again.”

* Name changed for privacy

About Uganda

  • Population: 38,319,241
  • Average Births per Woman: 4.8
  • Female Literacy: 71.5%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 18.7% (less than $1.25/day)
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We’re Making a Difference in Uganda

Fistula Foundation - Country: Uganda

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Your Donations at Work: Uganda

Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services in Uganda (CoRSU) | Thanks to successful patient outreach efforts, our partners at CoRSU report that they were able to treat 136 women last year, surpassing their goal of providing free fistula repair surgeries to 100 women. In addition to outreach, their program includes follow-up visits at local screening sites closer to…

The Life You Can Save Charity

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Featured by The Life You Can Save

This month, our partners at The Life You Can Save recommended Fistula Foundation as one of eight recommended charities working to restore vital, long-term services to the people of Nepal. Fistula Foundation’s work to support the Fistula Ambassador Program run by our partners at the Uganda Village Project was also featured: To view the full…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Hamida-Bangladesh

    Hamida

    Bangladesh

    Hamida is a young woman of twenty five from Teknaf in the Cox's Bazar District, a town remotely located at the southernmost point of mainland Bangladesh, at the Myanmar border. When Hamida was only thirteen years old, she was married. She became pregnant and gave birth at home with no medical help, preferring home as a safe place for delivery as more than 95 percent of women do in her region, for fear of hospital costs.

  • Christine

    Kenya

    Despite the efforts of one dedicated doctor who rode over an hour by motorbike late in the evening to help save the life of Christine and her baby, the baby did not survive. Her prolonged labor also resulted in obstetric fistula. Her husband abandoned her because he could not stand the smell of her incontinence, but her brothers defied cultural tradition and insisted she and her five children live with them. Then, a radio advertisement changed her life.

  • Janet

    Kenya

    Janet can't explain how she ended up at the political rally that day, but it changed her life forever.

  • Rose

    Tanzania

    Rose developed a fistula after her very first pregnancy, and has been suffering because of it ever since. For over fifty years she struggled, never knowing that treatment was available....until recently when she met Sister Anna, the head nurse of Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center's fistula ward in Moshi.

  • Justine

    Uganda

    Justine is 37 years old and lives in Bumasiki , a small village in Bugiri District in Uganda. When her labor pains began, she prepared to go to the hospital but didn’t have enough money to get there. She arrived 20 hours later after gathering sufficient funds from friends and neighbors; but by then, she had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Confidence from Liberia (WAHA)

    Confidence

    Liberia

    Pregnant with her second child, Confidence went to a local hospital to deliver her baby. But when her labor became obstructed, hospital staff weren’t able to perform the necessary Cesarean section and transferred her to a larger facility. Sadly, it was too late.

  • 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.

  • Tovisoa

    Madagascar

    Tovisoa is hopeful as she waits for fistula surgery that could change her life.

  • Celestine

    Kenya

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  • Nanyoor

    Tanzania

    Nanyoor experienced a terrible obstructed labor when she was only 16 years old. She is a member of the Maasai tribe in northern Tanzania, and her remote community is miles away from any major healthcare facility.

  • 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.

  • Goni-Ethiopia

    Goni

    Ethiopia

    Goni is fifteen years old and lives in a small village in the hills of northeastern Ethiopia. She married and became pregnant. During labor she developed a fistula; her husband abandoned her after the injury became apparent.

  • Jane

    Kenya

    Conducting patient outreach in rural western Kenya, Jane faces a number of challenges—including threats to her life—as she travels in search of women suffering with fistula. But knowing there are many women who are enjoying life once again thanks to her efforts gives great meaning to her work.

  • Naomi

    Tanzania

    Naomi arrived at Tanga Health Center in northeastern Tanzania as a glowing 24 year old expectant mother and businesswoman with a supportive family and a bright future. She returned home with a healthy baby, but also a devastating condition that threatened to diminish that future - obstetric fistula.

  • 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.

  • Selina

    Kenya

    Selina, a traditional birth attendant from remote West Pokot, Kenya, helped eight women from her village get life-changing fistula surgery. And she’s not done yet.

  • Debora

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    Debora lives in a tiny Angolan village quite far from any emergency medical services. In 2008, she was in labor with her fourth child for nearly a week before her uncle finally brought her to a hospital.

  • Beatrice-Kenya

    Beatrice

    Kenya

    Beatrice is 17 she lives in Western Kenya. Many women with fistula suffer for years or decades before they are able to access surgical treatment. Fortunately for Beatrice, who was 16 when she developed fistula, it was less than a month before she received treatment at the Nyanza Provincial General Hospital in Kisumu, Kenya. Beatrice developed fistula after laboring at home for two days in the presence of a traditional birth attendant.