Violence and political instability continue to plague the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), effectively crippling its limited maternal healthcare infrastructure and abandoning women who are suffering with fistula. These grinding conditions prompted author and humanitarian Lisa Shannon to call it “the worst place on earth to be a woman.” This International Women’s Day, will you…
Djinto tried to do everything right. She attended regular prenatal sessions to prepare for the birth of her child. Her pregnancy progressed normally, though she had been warned that the child she carried was too large for Djinto’s young 17 year old body to handle. Taking her care provider’s advice, Djinto set out immediately to her local health center when labor began, to be looked after in case of problems delivering.
When her contractions began, it was night time and Djinto and her husband lived far from the health center. But they managed to make their way there. The nurse on duty did the first examinations, informing Djinto that she was dilated to 1cm. She then remained in labor for two days without giving birth.
“I had suffered a lot during this time and during these two days of labor, I tried to push in vain. When the nurse found that it was really hard to get me to give birth, he called for two strong men to bring him physical assistance in order to help me push the child,” recalled Djinto. She felt exhausted to the point of death, at a time when she wanted to give life.
The nurse was also afraid that Djinto might die, so he referred her to another health center for better management. With her referral letter in hand and husband at her side, at 3pm Djinto began walking to the referral facility because there was no ambulance or other vehicle available to transport her. Five hours later, they arrived.
At the referral hospital, the doctor on duty noticed Djinto’s deteriorating situation and took immediate action, delivering a stillborn baby via Cesarean section.
The day after surgery, she noticed that urine had begun to leak down her leg. Her bedding was wet, and remained so – eventually causing a serious infection in the area where she had received stitches, post-surgery.
She remained in the hospital for 51 days. “During this time, I suffered a lot. God recovered my wound, but fistula remained a big life issue,” Djinto said. Her husband was young, but was the only one who could comfort her in this terrible time. An orphan, Djinto had no other family to which to turn.
But soon, her story took a turn. Upon discharge from the hospital, her husband learned information that Fistula Foundation partners, HEAL Africa, advertised a team of doctors that would treat all fistula patients, free of charge. Djinto’s husband registered her immediately. A few days later the team from HEAL Africa arrived and Djinto was one of the first to be treated.
“Today, I am totally healed. I am proud of myself, and I ask God to bless HEAL Africa more for everything it does for girls and women by giving them back the smiles and hope of life. My husband and I pray that God will bless everyone who contributed in one way or another to send this humanitarian aid. We cannot help but be grateful.”
About Democratic Republic of Congo
- Population: 81,331,050
- Average Births per Woman: 4.53
- Female Literacy: 50%
- Population Living in Poverty: 63% (less than $1.25/day)