Meet Helen

Helen went into labor with her second child about four years ago. She gave birth in her home, where she labored for many hours, completely alone without anyone present to assist her. Her baby was stillborn and she began leaking urine immediately.

Helen's Story

She was afraid, and was in the house alone as her husband had died just a few weeks before. Helen had trouble walking because of the injury caused by the difficult childbirth, and felt that she was unable to stay around other people because of the bad smell. She used to walk with other women to collect traditional herbs to sell at the market as a small source of income. But once she developed the fistula she was unable to go out with other women, so she would hide in the bush and wait until they were gone to try to and collect a few herbs.

Helen confessed that she had never told anyone about her condition because she was afraid of what they would think or do. “They would just laugh at me and they wouldn’t be able to help me,” she said. So she lived in silence.

One day Helen heard the news from Pastor Raphael, a respected and trusted member of her community, that she had a condition that could be cured through surgery. Pastor Raphael had been trained by the organization, WADADIA, to sensitize his community about the signs and symptoms of fistula, and reassure women living with the condition that help was available.

Although she trusted Pastor Raphael, Helen was still anxious about going to the hospital as she did not know what to expect. When she arrived at Cherangany Nursing Home, however she met many other women who had the same problem that she had. She was comforted to see that she was not alone, yet she still wondered if she would actually get healed.

Helen underwent a successful repair surgery and is now she is back home in her community. She is dry and happy, and is able to socialize and go out with people once again. She has the energy she was missing and is able to go out to the farm and help her children. “I feel like a complete woman again,” Helen says, “and I say God bless you for that.”

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)
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We’re Making a Difference in Kenya

News
PBS News Hour – Erasing the pain and taboo of this female injury

PBS News Hour highlights obstetric fistula and the suffering it causes to roughly one million women in the developing world. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from Kenya on efforts to offer treatment and reintegrate women back into communities. Watch the full segment in the link below: Erasing the pain and taboo of this…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Rasoandrana Marie Lucie

    Madagascar

    Rasoandrana Marie Lucie became pregnant at the age of 15. Her labor began in April, 2016, and lasted for an excruciating three days. Eventually, the baby was delivered via C-section at a government hospital. The child did not survive. Not long after, Rasoandrana began leaking urine: the difficult labor had left her with obstetric fistula.

  • 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.

  • Felistas

    Kenya

    Felistas developed fistula at the age of 17, after delivering a stillborn baby via Cesarian section. Her husband left her because he could not stand her condition. She suffered alone until learning one day that treatment was available through the Action on Fistula program.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Merin’y

    Madagascar

    Merin'y is the mother of three healthy children, but when the time came to deliver her fourth child, things did not go as they had before. Her labor was long and intense, and resulted in an obstetric fistula.

  • 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.

  • Florinda

    Angola

    Living in a small village in central Angola, Florinda was married in her teens and became pregnant at 16. Without access to emergency obstetric care, her difficult delivery caused her to develop a fistula. But today, she is smiling again.

  • Saran

    Guinea

    After developing a fistula with the birth of her fourth child, Saran received free fistula surgery at our partner site Jean Paul II Hospital in Conakry, Guinea.

  • Solange

    Madagascar

    Solange spent the majority of her teenage years suffering from obstetric fistula.

  • Janet

    Kenya

    Janet can't explain how she ended up at the political rally that day, but it changed her life forever.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Seline

    Kenya

    Seline lives in a small village in the remote region of West Pokot, Kenya. She did not go to school and married young, as is tradition in this pastoralist community. She went into labor with her fourth child about three years ago, preferring to give birth at home with a traditional birth attendant from her village. Only 18% of women give birth in a health center in this region of Kenya, far below the national average of 44%

  • 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.