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)
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Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Esther


    Esther gave birth to her second child, Manuel, less than one year ago. She was encouraged to stay at home to deliver the baby, where she labored for three days with the help of a traditional birth attendant. Fortunately, she gave birth to a lively baby boy. However, after four days she noticed she was leaking urine and was unable to control it.

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



    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.

  • Vitasoa


    Vitasoa is from the village of Manja, approximately 250km from the nearest city, Morondava. She developed fistula during the birth of her first child.

  • Fistula Foundation - Nazneen



    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.

  • Yvonne


    After suffering from obstetric fistula for 17 years, Yvonne boarded a bus that would take her to treatment. She was hopeful that on her return ride, she would be traveling in a dry dress for the first time in nearly two decades.

  • Action on Fistula - Jane

    Jane and Elizabeth


    After suffering five miscarriages, Jane prepared to deliver her first child. But two days of difficult labor left Jane with an obstetric fistula. At home, she became traumatized by isolation and mistreatment from her husband, who had taken another wife. Her sister, Elizabeth, stepped in.

  • Pushpa


    Pushpa is approximately 50 years old and from a remote village in western Nepal. When she arrived at Kathmandu Model Hospital, she was leaking urine and feces uncontrollably and was severely depressed.

  • Wilmina


    “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.”

  • 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.

  • Christine A.


    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.

  • Domitila



    In 2012 Domitila became pregnant with her 9th baby. During her final trimester, she had a severe episode of bleeding. Her family realized this indicated the baby had died, but hoped she would still be able to push it out on her own at home. When nothing happened, they finally took her to the hospital where a hysterectomy was done. After this, she no longer was able to control her urine - she had developed a fistula.

  • Mary


    Mary's first two pregnancies progressed normally, giving her two healthy children. But she never could have imagined what would happen when it came time to deliver her third child.

  • Florinda


    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.

  • Mayeye

    Democratic Republic of Congo

    In the year 2000, Mayeye was pregnant with her fourth child. Not long after giving birth, she felt intense pain in her abdomen and began leaking urine. She had developed obstetric fistula. Despite her injury, Mayeye continued working on her family’s small farm. She had no choice but to work through the pain, because her family was depending on her.

  • Rose


    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.

  • Halima, from Somalia (photo credit: WAHA)



    Halima is yet another brave fistula survivor from Somalia. “When I went to labour, the pain got stronger and stronger and lasted on and on. Something was not right. It took two days to convince my husband to bring me to a health facility. The doctors that saw me decided to immediately carry out a cesarean section. But they had no anesthesia. The pain was unbearable, and when I screamed they started beating me. My baby could not be saved and I developed what I later learned was an obstetric fistula. My husband left me because he could not stand the smell caused by my injury.”

  • Elvanah


    Elvanah gave birth to her first child at the age of 17. Her labor became obstructed, and ultimately was delivered via C-section. Her prolonged obstructed labor had resulted in an obstetric fistula.

  • Brenda



    Thanks to a newly opened fistula hospital close to her home in Kisii, Kenya, 17-year-old Brenda was able to get treatment after six months. Now that she is healed, she has dreams of returning to school to become a nurse.