Halima

Meet Halima

Originally from Somalia and now living in Kenya, in the world’s largest refugee camp, Halima has been through a hell few can imagine. But after traveling over 1,000 miles seeking fistula treatment, she is finally healed.

Halima's Story

Halima* is a soft-spoken 25-year-old from Baidoa, in south-central Somalia. In 2013, she went into labor at home and was attended by a relative. This was the fifth child she had carried, although at the tender age of 23, already three of her children had died. She was in labor a long time without any progress—many days, it seemed—before she was eventually taken by her relatives to the nearest health facility.

While at the facility, her experience turned from bad to horrific when fighters from al-Shabaab, the terrorist network operating in Somalia, stormed the health center and started shooting the doctors and staff who were attending to the women. She remembers being assaulted by al-Shabaab fighters who claimed they could deliver her baby and then attempted to do so. Halima could barely speak about this terrifying episode, but she remembers eventually escaping the hospital, without her baby—the child had been stillborn—only to realize that she was constantly leaking urine. She had developed a fistula. Injured and traumatized, it took her four months to be able to walk again.

Halima was abandoned by her husband due to her condition, and she now lives in Kenya with her only surviving son, 7-yeard-old Mohamed. Seeking treatment, she traveled first to Ethiopia—more than 700 miles away—and eventually to Somaliland. But after traveling over 1,000 miles and undergoing multiple surgeries, she had no relief. She decided that going to Dadaab, located near the Somali border in northeastern Kenya, would be her best hope for medical treatment and maybe a better life. Dadaab is the world’s largest refugee camp, home to more than 300,000 people. Most are refugees from Somalia, who, like Halima, have been displaced by years of conflict and famine at home.

It was here in Dadaab that Halima was screened for fistula. Since May 2015, Action on Fistula has provided fistula repair surgery for 52 women from the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps in Kenya. Through a close partnership with Jamaa Mission Hospital in Nairobi and with logistics support from the National Council of Churches of Kenya, women have traveled from the camps, where there is no fistula repair capacity, to Nairobi, where they can be treated.

Awaiting treatment at the hospital in Nairobi, Halima seemed very nervous that the repair would be a success and wiped away tears when she thought of the prospect of going through surgery again without a better result. The difficult reality is that not all fistulas can be completely repaired.

But several weeks later, in the feedback from the hospital, there was a short and simple word next to Halima’s name. A word that carries enormous importance for changing the course of her life: “Dry.”

*Name changed for privacy reasons.

About Kenya

  • Population: 45,010,056
  • Average Births per Woman: 3.54
  • Female Literacy: 84.2%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 43.4% (less than $1.25/day)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Kenya

soka

News
Football for hope: Wadadia using football to fight fistula

Women And Development Against Distress In Africa (WADADIA) has been using a football program to spread awareness of fistula to young girls and women in Kenya. “We provide psycho-social support, economic empowerment and reproductive health to women in need. Our organization also serves as an outreach tool for Fistula program, educating communities and helping find…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Fatma

    Fatma

    Tanzania

    When 18 year-old Fatma became pregnant, she did not have early and quality access to the healthcare she wanted when she gave birth. Fatma developed a fistula as a result of prolonged labor.
  • Patient.Story.Images.13.00342.pt.2014.2

    Justine

    Uganda

    Justine is 37 years old and lives in Bumasiki , a small village in Bugiri District in Uganda. When her labor pains began, she prepared to go to the hospital but didn’t have enough money to get there. She arrived 20 hours later after gathering sufficient funds from friends and neighbors; but by then, she had developed an obstetric fistula.
  • Evelyn

    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."
  • Jane_WADADIA_smiling

    Jane

    Kenya

    As an outreach coordinator in rural western Kenya, Jane faces a number of challenges - including threats to her life - as she travels long distances in search of women suffering from fistula. But knowing that there are so many women who now enjoy life once again thanks to her efforts gives great meaning to her work.
  • 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.
  • One Womans Story-Alphonsia

    Alphonsia

    Tanzania

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

    Towanda

    Zimbabwe

    Towanda is 20 years old and from a rural area just outside of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. Four years ago at the age of 16, she became pregnant. When the time came to deliver, there were a lot of complications.
  • AR2013_CoverOption_1

    Sokhina

    Bangladesh

    Sokhina endured four days of excruciating labor before delivering a stillborn baby. But her nightmare was just beginning: soon after she began to leak urine and learned that she had an obstetric fistula. She suffered with this injury for eight years before learning that help was available.
  • Raphael 1

    Pastor Raphael

    Kenya

    The fact that he is blind has never slowed him down, and at 45 years, Pastor Raphael is feeling young and energetic. As a child, Pastor Raphael was unable to finish school as he had tend to the family’s cattle, but he always felt a calling to become a pastor and to serve his community.
  • Margart (l) with sister

    Margaret and Rose

    Kenya

    At the age of 14, Margaret was raped while fetching water at the local stream. She became pregnant as a result, and endured a difficult labor, which resulted in a stillborn baby and an obstetric fistula. An orphan, Margaret had nowhere to go, and nobody to help her through this terrible tragedy – except her sister, Rose.
  • 04_Kaudha_post-surgery

    Kaudha

    Uganda

    Kaudha is from eastern Uganda. She developed a fistula after spending hours in labor with her third child. Unfortunately, the baby did not survive, and Kaudha’s condition left her feeling isolated from friends and loved ones. But in fall 2015, her story—and her outlook—changed dramatically.
  • Lida - CURE

    Lida

    Afghanistan

    Lida gave birth to her first and only child 12 years ago. Sadly, the baby died shortly after it was born. Not only that, but Lida developed a fistula during the difficult delivery and started leaking urine constantly from that day.
  • 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.
  • Goni-Ethiopia

    Goni

    Ethiopia

    Goni is fifteen years old and lives in a small village in the hills of northeastern Ethiopia. She married and became pregnant. During labor she developed a fistula; her husband abandoned her after the injury became apparent.
  • Umuhoza, a recovering fistula patient at CHUK

    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.
  • Serafina

    Serafina

    Angola

    Serafina is 18 years old and from the Mukubal tribe in southwestern Angola. Married off at a young age and one of several wives, Serafina became pregnant when she was 14. She is very small-boned and was suffering from malnutrition when she came to the hospital, as food is often scarce in that part of the country. As a result of that and other factors, her delivery did not go well.
  • Fistula Foundation - Binta

    Binta

    Guinea

    Binta is 35 years old and from Fidi, a landlocked village in northwestern Guinea. At 14 years old she was forced to marry a much older man, and soon became pregnant. After five days of painful labor, she lost her baby. A few days later, she realized that she was not able to control her urine. The difficult labor had left her with an obstetric fistula.

We Need YOU!

To follow our work, sign up here for our e-newsletter...

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
* indicates required