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

  • Action on Fistula - Jane

    Jane and Elizabeth

    Kenya

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Naresia Kenya

    Naresia

    Kenya

    Naresia is a Masai girl from a rural village in Kenya. Only five months ago, at the age of 14, Naresia gave birth to a baby. After a prolonged and difficult labor, she awoke to find her bed soaked with urine. The doctors informed her that the delivery process had left her with an obstetric fistula and she was now incontinent.

  • Cellina

    Kenya

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

  • Tahinomenjanahary

    Madagascar

    Tahinomenjanahary went in to labor at the age of 17. Her labor was excruciating, but she did not begin the journey to the nearest hospital until she had been in labor for more than a day. In total, she labored for three days. The baby did not survive.

  • Celestine

    Kenya

    In obstructed labor with her sixth child, Celestine was rushed to her local health facility, only to be told she couldn’t have emergency surgery until her family made a down payment. Anxious and afraid, she waited for her husband to return with the money needed.

  • Sofia - WAHA

    Sofia

    Liberia

    At 16, Sofia lost her baby boy in childbirth and developed a fistula, prompting her husband to leave her. Unaware what her condition was called or that treatment was possible, she became almost completely isolated over the next three years, giving up hope of ever being healed. A radio ad changed her life.

  • Siana

    Siana

    Burundi

    Siana is 17 years old and from Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She developed an obstetric fistula after going through a difficult pregnancy at just 14.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hadija

    Guinea

    By age 27, Hadija had already given birth to four children. Sadly, only two of her children survived. Making things worse, her last pregnancy left Hadija with an obstetric fistula.

  • Nura

    Chad

    Nura comes from Lai, a region in the south of Chad where she married at age 17. She first became pregnant at 20 and tried to give birth at home, aided only by her family. After 4 days of complicated labor, she was finally taken to the maternity center in Guidari, a nearby village.

  • 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.

  • Flavia

    Flavia

    Angola

    Flavia is a shy 17 year old girl who was married when she was just 15. Soon after, she became pregnant. Her labor began at home, but the family was unprepared when the labor became obstructed. Not knowing what to do, they finally took her to a hospital.

  • Mulamba

    Democratic Republic of Congo

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