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

News
A game-changer for fistula in Kenya

Launched in 2014 thanks to support from Astellas Pharma EMEA, Action on Fistula has provided training to increase the number of surgeons treating fistula in Kenya, developed a countrywide network of hospitals offering free treatment, and has delivered free reparative surgery to more than 2,500 women suffering from this devastating childbirth injury.

News
Action on Fistula: An Innovative Program to End Obstetric Fistula

Borgen Magazine highlights the Action on Fistula program in Kenya, interviewing Fistula Foundation Senior Program Director Lindsey Pollaczek. Read the full article at the link below: Action on Fistula: An Innovative Program to End Obstetric Fistula KENYA – Gladys, a 26 years old mother of two, felt helpless after the labor and birth of her…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Maho

    Madagascar

    At 20 years old, Maho is mother to two healthy children. In June 2016, when giving birth to her third child, her labor went quite differently. She endured an excruciating labor that lasted three days and resulted in a C-section. Her child did not survive, and Maho had begun to leak urine.

  • Djinto

    Democratic Republic of Congo

    Djinto tried to do everything right. She attended regular prenatal sessions to prepare for the birth of her child. Her pregnancy progressed normally, though she had been warned that the child she carried was too large for Djinto’s young 17 year old body to handle.

  • Cellina

    Kenya

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

  • Aidah

    Nigeria

    72 year old Aidah lived with obstetric fistula for an astounding 41 years before accessing treatment at Evangel Vesico-Vaginal Fistula Center in Jos. Her family stuck by her side the entire time, and recounted to hospital staff how fistula severely limited her (and their) opportunities and success in 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.

  • Zeinabou

    Niger

    Zeinabou comes from a village 100 miles north of Danja, Niger. She was married and became pregnant while still in her teens. As is the local custom, Zeinabou planned to deliver her baby at home because maternity services are not easily accessible.

  • Alitash

    Ethiopia

    Alitash is 56 years old and lives in a small village about 50 kilometers east of Aira, a large town in western Ethiopia. She has given birth three times – her first two children died as teenagers, and the third was stillborn.

  • 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.

  • Ravony

    Madagascar

    For the last eight years, Ravony has suffered with obstetric fistula, which caused her to leak urine uncontrollably. Her fistula was the result of a five day labor that ended in the death of her child.

  • Fina

    Tanzania

    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.

  • Nathi-Uganda

    Nathi

    Uganda

    Nathi* lives in Uganda. She was married at the age of 13 and two years later was pregnant with her first child. After enduring a difficult labor, Nathi lost her baby and was left with obstetric fistula, incontinent and leaking wastes. Her husband abandoned her and soon after, her family did, too. At 15, she was alone and scared.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Awetu

    Tanzania

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

  • 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.

  • Grace

    Kenya

    Grace got married in 1994, and explained that she immediately felt a burden upon herself to give birth to as many children as possible as quickly as possible in order to earn respect and stability in her marriage. This, she said, is the status quo in the rural African context.

  • 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.