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…
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!”
- 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)