Meet Fina

Sixteen years ago, a childbirth injury turned Fina’s life upside down. But after losing everything—her health, her husband, even her own family—she was determined to take her future into her own hands.

Fina's Story

Fina*, 40, is from Lake Victoria, in Tanzania’s far northwest corner. At age 24, she was pregnant with her first child.

Her voice drops as she says, “I endured labor pains for three days. My husband called for a midwife, who came to our home”—but, by the fourth day, with Fina still in intense pain and increasingly weak and tired, her husband took her to a hospital far from their village. They cycled to the bus station in another town, but when bus drivers saw Fina’s condition, they told her she couldn’t use the bus. After hours of waiting, a bus driver finally let them on and they traveled to the hospital. Sadly, Fina’s baby did not survive.

“I cried a lot,” she says. The next day, exhausted and grief-stricken, Fina and her husband went to his family’s home nearby, where she realized she was leaking urine.

Fina was confused. “I didn’t know what was happening to me. I explained it to my mother-in-law, who took me to the hospital a week later.” The doctors told her they couldn’t do anything about it. Back at her in-laws’ house, the leaking continued, and, after a few days, her mother-in-law told her to leave and go back to her family—she couldn’t tolerate Fina’s condition anymore. On hearing that his wife was leaking urine, her husband left her. Alone, she went back home to live with her father and stepmother.

Fina’s father took her to a second and then a third hospital. It was here that doctors finally explained what was causing her incontinence—her prolonged, obstructed labor had killed delicate tissue inside her body, creating two holes between her birth canal, bladder, and urinary tract. They admitted her for surgery but were only able to repair one of the holes. Fina continued to leak urine.

Back home, Fina’s stepmother was increasingly embarrassed by her stepdaughter’s condition and eventually threw her out of the house. “I asked myself many questions. Where will I go? How am I going to survive? Neither my relatives nor my friends want to stay with me. I cried bitterly,” Fina says in a low voice.

Determined to support herself, Fina sought employment as a housekeeper. She worked for three years, bought her own land, and began to build her own house. She soon started farming, which is how she makes a living today.

At a party in her village, Fina met one of her neighbors who asked her why she washed her clothes every day. Fina explained that she had been leaking urine since giving birth 16 years ago. Fina’s neighbor shared that her daughter had experienced the same problem and was treated successfully at CCBRT, a disability hospital located in Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, on the Indian Ocean coast. She helped Fina get in touch with a CCBRT ambassador, who arranged to cover the cost of her transportation to the hospital hundreds of miles away.

Support from Fistula Foundation enabled Fina to receive free fistula repair surgery at our partner site CCBRT in July 2016. “I am so happy. I am recovering from fistula after suffering for all these years,” she said. “Asante (‘thank you’) CCBRT and other supporters!”

*Name changed

About Tanzania

  • Population: 49,639,138
  • Average Births per Woman: 4.95
  • Female Literacy: 60.8%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 67.9% (less than $1.25/day)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Tanzania

Tanzania

News
Your Donations at Work – The Mabinti Centre

Thankfully, a woman with obstetric fistula can be physically healed through life-transforming surgery. However, for many survivors, complete recovery goes beyond the physical—emotional and psychological damage can haunt her long after her body has healed. Fistula Foundation’s partners in Africa and Asia are dedicated to providing holistic care for their patients. Many offer comprehensive counseling…

News
Partner Spotlight: CCBRT in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

While Tanzania has made significant progress in its health care development and improvement of maternal health, there is still a long way to go. In rural areas most women still give birth at home without the assistance of a skilled attendant. This, coupled with lack of access to emergency obstetric care, significantly increases a woman’s…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • 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.

  • Alphonsia

    Tanzania

    Alphonsia’s heart-wrenching story began 27 years ago after her labor failed to progress properly.

  • 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.

  • Rasoandrana Marie Lucie

    Madagascar

    Rasoandrana Marie Lucie became pregnant at the age of 15. Her labor began in April, 2016, and lasted for an excruciating three days. Eventually, the baby was delivered via C-section at a government hospital. The child did not survive. Not long after, Rasoandrana began leaking urine: the difficult labor had left her with obstetric fistula.

  • Aneni

    Zimbabwe

    Before finding treatment through Fistula Foundation, Aneni* suffered with a terrible fistula for 35 years.

  • Gul-Afghanistan

    Gul

    Afghanistan

    Gul lives in Afghanistan. At 13 years old, her father arranged for her to marry an older man who had another wife, and after one year of marriage, Gul became pregnant. When she went into labor, it lasted for two days. There were no clinics or doctors where she lived and Gul's husband became worried. He took her to her father's house, where Gul's father killed a sheep and placed the sheepskin on her as part of a traditional treatment used in her area. After three days of wearing the sheepskin, Gul delivered a stillborn baby.

  • Fistula Foundation - Khadija

    Khadijah

    Chad

    Khadijah lived with fistula for 18 years, and it isolated her from everything and everyone around her. Originally from Chad's northern region of Bar Elgazel, she was married when she was only 14 years old. Her first pregnancy came three years afterwards and, not knowing the importance of seeking health care or treatment, she never received any prenatal care.

  • Brenda

    Brenda

    Kenya

    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.

  • Tovisoa

    Madagascar

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

  • Rasoanirina

    Madagascar

    Extremely shy, and embarrassed by her condition, Rasoanirina stopped going to school.

  • Domitila

    Domitila

    Angola

    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.

  • 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."

  • Awetu

    Tanzania

    After Awetu developed a fistula following a difficult labor and delivery, her husband left her and married another. She was heartbroken.

  • Queen

    Kenya

    “When my husband saw the many health issues I had, he despised me, he called me names and always told me in the face that I was more than crippled.” She was left on her own and most of the time starving. She reached at a point that she could not withstand the mistreatment and she went back to her parents. After a few years her parents died. “I walk like a crippled woman, there is nothing that I own on this earth, I don’t have a husband, I don’t have a baby. My life is so empty.” She has said that her deepest desire has been to die a clean woman. But at Gynocare, where she received fistula surgery through the Action on Fistula program, she is happy. Here, she feels loved and valued. She knows she has a family at Gynocare.

  • Rahima

    Bangladesh

    When Rahima was just 13 she was married to save her family money on living costs. She soon became pregnant and suffered through prolonged, obstructed labor that left her incontinent. She lived with obstetric fistula for 12 years before finally finding help through our partners at HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh.

  • Rasoanirina

    Madagascar

    Rasoanirina was 18 when she went into labor with her first child. But her labor did not go as planned: it lasted for three excruciating days before the baby was delivered stillborn, via C-section on July 2, 2015. Her complicated labor left her with more than the pain of losing a child; it also left her with obstetric fistula.

  • 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.

  • Momakely

    Madagascar

    When it came time to deliver her baby, Momakely made her way to a health facility a great distance away from her home. But her labor was prolonged and difficult, and her baby did not survive. Momakely was left with an obstetric fistula for five years, until she learned about free fistula services offered by SALFA.