Fistula Foundation featured prominently in 10th Anniversary Edition of The Life You Can Save! Learn More

Meet Jacqueline

During her first pregnancy in 2008, Jacqueline was in labor for a day before she was taken to Muyombe Clinic and then on to Isoka District Hospital. Her baby was removed using forceps and the baby was still born. Then she began to leak feces and urine.

Jacqueline's Story

At a recent community meeting, Jacqueline Kanyika danced just like the other villagers. 

Ten years ago, this wouldn’t have been possible because she had obstetric fistula. 

“In terms of sickness, I was OK,” the 26-year-old said. “The hardest part was moving around with urine and drying the cloths.” 

During her first pregnancy in 2008, she was in labor for a day before she was taken to Muyombe Clinic and then on to Isoka District Hospital. Her baby was removed using forceps and the baby was still born. While she was in Isoka, she noticed that feces and urine were leaking out of her. She stayed at Isoka for a month and hoped she would get better, but nothing ever improved. It turns out she had both vagina fistula and rectovaginal fistula. 

She eventually returned to her village of Chanama in Mafinga District. When she returned, she heard they treat such injuries in Malawi, which is just across the border. She headed to Muzuzu where her rectovaginal fistula was treated, but her vaginal fistula remained. 

She returned to her village and tried a traditional healer, but the problem remained. She would go through numerous pads each day. Finally, she heard through the community that there was someone at Chilonga Mission Hospital who could treat the second fistula. Jacqueline met with a Community Health Volunteer from Fistula Foundation, and in February of 2018, an appointment was made.

Receiving treatment at Chilonga Mission Hospital, Jacqueline said she was very excited. 

Though her husband stayed with her throughout the 10 years, he used to speak about the fistula often, making Jacqueline uneasy. Unlike some other women who experience the condition, Jacqueline remained closely bonded to her friends, saying it was necessary to continue to get through each day. 

“This is a big problem,” she said. “I couldn’t handle it alone. I needed friends.” 

She found friends in the community recently during a Fistula Foundation mobilization, where she told her story and danced with the other women, showing that she was dry. 

With an eye toward the future, Jacqueline hopes to start maize farming and selling produce to make money. She will then use that money to buy items to sell at the market. 

“I never imagined getting better,” she said. “I’m thankful to the Fistula Foundation.”

This story was written by Kristi Eaton in 2018 for Fistula Foundation’s Writer in Residence program. 

About Zambia

  • Population: 15,510,711
  • Average Births per Woman: 5.67
  • Female Literacy: 56%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 60.5% (less than $1.25/day)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Zambia

News
Mentoring for better service

As a trained midwife, Barnabus Mulenga acts as a mentor and counselor to pregnant women, helping them with family planning and deliveries.  What sets Barnabus apart from other midwifes, however, is that he’s also a fistula nurse, acting as a mentor to other nurses about the best ways to treat fistula patients.  “I love this…

News
Field Notes – Zambia: A Journey I’ll Never Forget

I can’t believe my three weeks in Zambia have come and gone. I’m writing this post from Chicago, waiting to return to my hometown of Tulsa and replaying everything in my mind. It’s bringing up a cadre of emotions. First, anger. It’s 2018 and this ailment shouldn’t be affecting anyone, let along the numbers it…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Rahima

    Bangladesh

    When Rahima was just 13 she was married to save her family money on living costs. She soon became pregnant and suffered through prolonged, obstructed labor that left her incontinent. She lived with obstetric fistula for 12 years before finally finding help through our partners at HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh.

  • Annet Jane

    Annet Jane

    Uganda

    Pregnant at 14, Annet Jane suffered with a fistula for 23 years before receiving treatment. Now, she has hope for the future.

  • Confidence from Liberia (WAHA)

    Confidence

    Liberia

    Pregnant with her second child, Confidence went to a local hospital to deliver her baby. But when her labor became obstructed, hospital staff weren’t able to perform the necessary Cesarean section and transferred her to a larger facility. Sadly, it was too late.

  • Halima, from Somalia (photo credit: WAHA)

    Halima

    Somalia

    Halima is yet another brave fistula survivor from Somalia. “When I went to labour, the pain got stronger and stronger and lasted on and on. Something was not right. It took two days to convince my husband to bring me to a health facility. The doctors that saw me decided to immediately carry out a cesarean section. But they had no anesthesia. The pain was unbearable, and when I screamed they started beating me. My baby could not be saved and I developed what I later learned was an obstetric fistula. My husband left me because he could not stand the smell caused by my injury.”

  • Jenipher

    Zambia

    While giving birth to her fifth child in 1998, Jenipher endured a prolonged labor, and her baby was stillborn. Afterwards, Jenipher began leaking uncontrollably- she had developed an obstetric fistula. After 18 years of living with fistula, she had all but given up hope of getting treatment, until she heard a comforting voice on the radio.

  • 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.

  • Doris

    Zambia

    After two days of labor at a clinic hear her village, Doris was transferred to a hospital where the staff refused to give her the cesarean section she needed because "she was going to die anyway." Her baby did not survive and Doris developed an obstetric fistula. Her husband left, and soon, so did her hope.

  • Meet Gladys

    Gladys

    Kenya

    Although she lives in a remote village in southwestern Kenya, successful patient outreach efforts helped Gladys get the treatment she needed. Now recovered, she has started a small business to support herself and her two children.

  • 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.

  • Elvanah

    Madagascar

    Elvanah gave birth to her first child at the age of 17. Her labor became obstructed, and ultimately was delivered via C-section. Her prolonged obstructed labor had resulted in an obstetric fistula.

  • Bernard

    Kenya

    Bernard Owino is one of six county mobilizers with Disciples of Mercy (DOM), an organization that runs a fistula outreach program in Kisumu. Before joining DOM, he worked with orphans and other vulnerable populations in the region for four years as a social worker.

  • Molia

    Zambia

    In 1996, Molia was pregnant with twins during her seventh pregnancy. Her mother was a traditional birth attendant, so the first twin was delivered at home. But the second one was delivered at a rural health center and her delivery became obstructed. The baby did not survive. After her delivery, she sat on a bike and noticed she was wet. 

  • Cellina

    Kenya

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

  • 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.

  • Bategna

    Madagascar

    Bategna is from the village of Marerano, 300km from the nearest city, Morondava. As a girl, she attended primary school, but only for a short time. She lived a happy life, until she developed obstetric fistula.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Felana

    Madagascar

    At the tender age of 15, Felana became pregnant. She suffered a prolonged obstructed labor, and by the time her stillborn baby was delivered, she had developed obstetric fistula.