Meet Fanny

Fanny became pregnant by her boyfriend at 15. She was in labor for over 3 days, seeking medical care. Her family had to row a canoe for 6 hours to reach a hospital before Fanny finally delivered her baby through cesarean section. Fanny developed an obstetric fistula due to this ordeal, but her mother Dorcas was determined to find help for her daughter so that she could live a good life.

Fanny's Story

Fanny bounced Kasongo, her eight month old baby, on her lap, as she told the story of his delivery.

Fanny became pregnant by her boyfriend when she was 15 years old. When she went into labor, Fanny’s family was living on Chisenga Island –an island off the mainland of Nchelenge District. She called the traditional village birth attendant at the first sign of labor pain, but was advised to wait. 24 hours later, Fanny found her way to the health center, but the only person staffing the facility was a cleaner who didn’t have a professional medical background. Another 48 hours elapsed, and finally it was decided that she should be referred to a higher-level facility. The family could not afford to hire a boat to take Fanny across to the mainland, so they had to settle for a dug-out canoe, which they rowed diligently for a full six hours before reaching the other side. The waiting ambulance rushed Fanny to the hospital where, thankfully, she was able to deliver a live baby through cesarean section.

Fanny noticed her hospital bed was wet; every time it was changed, it would immediately become soiled again with urine. The hospital didn’t know how to manage the condition, and eventually discharged her. Over the next few months, she sought out help at three more health centers to no avail. Throughout this ordeal, Fanny’s mother Dorcas was a passionate advocate for her daughter, refusing to believe that there wasn’t any help for her. She wanted her daughter to live a good life, and she knew with suffering like this, her chances were not strong.

Finally, Fanny’s uncle heard on the local radio about a condition called obstetric fistula, and thought about his suffering niece. Neither the uncle nor Fanny’s family had a phone, so they approached the village headman to seek his help. With the support of the village headman, they were able to use the phone and call the hotline number that was shared through the radio program. No more than one month later, Fanny was on her way to our partner Mansa General Hospital for fistula repair surgery.

Back at home with her child, Fanny hasn’t married her boyfriend. She doesn’t want to rush into any relationships, she values her life, and wants to have the time to grow up a bit. Fanny wants to talk to others about her own experience and support women with fistula in seeking help. She says that you have to go with “one heart”—meaning go without doubt—“and you will be OK when you come back.”

Dorcas is overjoyed and grateful to Fistula Foundation for the health and smile that have returned to her 16-year old daughter.

About Zambia

  • Population: 15,510,711
  • Average Births per Woman: 5.67
  • Female Literacy: 56%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 60.5% (less than $1.25/day)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Zambia

News
Field Notes: A 10-Hour Bus Ride and a Long Journey to Healing

By Lindsey Pollaczek, Senior Program Director Lupaula Province, Zambia — Amidst the throngs of women and children at Kabole Health Center in northern Zambia, twenty women slowly boarded a dusty green bus with Mansa General Hospital emblazoned in white lettering on the side. As the women took their seats and waited for the bus to…

Group CHV Training Mpika, Zambia

News
Field Notes: Getting the word out in Zambia

By Lindsey Pollaczek, Senior Program Director MPIKA, Zambia — Last week we completed the first training for community health volunteers here in Mpika, northern Zambia, our first step toward establishing a nationwide fistula treatment network in the country. Applying lessons learned in running our Action on Fistula program in Kenya for the past three years,…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Alitash

    Ethiopia

    Alitash is 56 years old and lives in a small village about 50 kilometers east of Aira, a large town in western Ethiopia. She has given birth three times – her first two children died as teenagers, and the third was stillborn.

  • 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.

  • Alradya-Sudan

    Alradya

    Sudan

    Alradya is 17 years old and lives in northern Sudan. When she was 15, she was married to her cousin, a farmer. She became pregnant and when she went into labor, had only her mother at her side. She endured excruciating labor for two days, but there was still no sign of the baby, which she could no longer feel moving. A traditional birth attendant was summoned to examine Alradya, who ordered that she be sent to the nearest hospital.

  • Ravony

    Madagascar

    For the last eight years, Ravony has suffered with obstetric fistula, which caused her to leak urine uncontrollably. Her fistula was the result of a five day labor that ended in the death of her child.

  • Annonciata

    Uganda

    Annonciata is a 56-year old mother and farmer from a small village in Budaka District in Uganda. She had previously given birth to six children without significant complications, but her seventh delivery did not go as planned.

  • Ana-Angola

    Ana

    Angola

    Today, Ana is 18 years old, with an enthusiastic outlook and bubbly smile. That wasn’t always the case. Ana was just shy of 16 years old when she became pregnant. Everything went well, until it was time to deliver. Her labor was excruciating, and lasted for days.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Saran

    Guinea

    After developing a fistula with the birth of her fourth child, Saran received free fistula surgery at our partner site Jean Paul II Hospital in Conakry, Guinea.

  • Grace

    Kenya

    Grace got married in 1994, and explained that she immediately felt a burden upon herself to give birth to as many children as possible as quickly as possible in order to earn respect and stability in her marriage. This, she said, is the status quo in the rural African context.

  • 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.

  • Aidah

    Nigeria

    72 year old Aidah lived with obstetric fistula for an astounding 41 years before accessing treatment at Evangel Vesico-Vaginal Fistula Center in Jos. Her family stuck by her side the entire time, and recounted to hospital staff how fistula severely limited her (and their) opportunities and success in life.

  • Sujata

    Nepal

    Sujata lives in Bajura, a very poor and remote mountain district in western Nepal. She lives with her husband, whom she married when she was 16 years old, and his family in a small house shared by 12 people. One year after their wedding, Sujata was looking forward to the birth of her first child. There was no health facility nearby, so when Sujata’s labor entered its eighth day, the family called on the local birth attendant.

  • Abiar

    Kenya

    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.

  • Lida

    Afghanistan

    Lida gave birth to her first and only child 12 years ago. Sadly, the baby died shortly after it was born. Not only that, but Lida developed a fistula during the difficult delivery and started leaking urine constantly from that day.

  • Levine

    Madagascar

    Levine never imagined that appendicitis surgery would result in an injury that could devastate her life.

  • Mildred

    Kenya

    Mildred developed fistula after prolonged, obstructed labor with her second child. She endured two difficult months of life with fistula before receiving treatment through our Action on Fistula program.