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

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…

News
Field Notes: Follow Bill in Africa

Fistula Foundation Board Chair Bill Mann has been passionate about delivering life-changing care to women suffering from obstetric fistula since his first visit to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 2011. This January, he had a little time to fill, so he booked a plane ticket to visit Fistula Foundation partners in Malawi, Kenya, Madagascar…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • 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.

  • Harka Maya

    Nepal

    A mother of two, Harka Maya lives in Sindhuli, Nepal, roughly 80 miles (129 km) from Kathmandu. She developed a fistula last summer, while in labor with her third child. Being from a poor farming family, it was customary for her to deliver at home.

  • 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 - Elizabeth Atieno

    Sylvia

    Kenya

    Pregnant at the age of 13, Sylvia labored for two days before delivering a stillborn baby. She developed obstetric fistula, which led to two decades of shame and sadness. Then one day, she heard a radio announcement that would change her life forever.

  • Umuhoza

    Rwanda

    Umuhoza arrived at the hospital with two massive fistulas and could barely walk. She was so traumatized by her labor that she could not remember any details. Today she is healed, but the road to recovery has been long and difficult.

  • Rahila

    Guinea

    Rahila never had the opportunity to attend school; instead, she sells donuts in the market and farms for a living. She married at age 14 and became pregnant soon thereafter. Unfortunately, Rahila developed obstetric fistula during delivery and was left leaking urine and feces.

  • Levine

    Madagascar

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

  • Elizabeth

    Madagascar

    Elizabeth is mother to ten children. For nearly a year, she suffered in shame, uncontrollably leaking urine. A doctor misdiagnosed her condition as a urinary tract infection. Without a way to stop the incontinence, Elizabeth went to great lengths to hide her injury.

  • Jahanara

    Bangladesh

    Jahanara is just 23 years old. She was in labor for a full day at home before going to a hospital for an emergency C-section. By then, unfortunately, the damage had already been done.

  • Mwajuma

    Kenya

    Mwajuma developed a fistula while in labor with her seventh child. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before she met Mariam, who helped her get free treatment through our Action on Fistula program in Kenya. With her health restored, Mwajuma now has plans to start a new business so she can help support her family.

  • Cellina

    Kenya

    Cellina Nyasugutha is a community health volunteer with Daraja Mbili, an outreach program based in Kisii.

  • 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.

  • Marivelo

    Madagascar

    In May, 2013, Marivelo went in to labor with her first child. Her labor lasted for four days. The child did not survive, and Marivelo was left incontinent of urine. She had developed an obstetric fistula as a result of the prolonged, unrelieved labor.

  • Chepotyeltyel

    Kenya

    Chepotyeltyel is a Pokot woman from a remote, rural area in northwestern Kenya. After suffering with fistula for nearly 50 years, she was finally able to receive free fistula treatment in July 2016.

  • Mulamba

    Democratic Republic of Congo

    With her health restored, Mulamba is eager to return to her job as a schoolteacher.

  • 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.

  • Christine

    Kenya

    Despite the efforts of one dedicated doctor who rode over an hour by motorbike late in the evening to help save the life of Christine and her baby, the baby did not survive. Her prolonged labor also resulted in obstetric fistula. Her husband abandoned her because he could not stand the smell of her incontinence, but her brothers defied cultural tradition and insisted she and her five children live with them. Then, a radio advertisement changed her life.

  • Rose

    Tanzania

    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.