Meet Jenipher

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.

Jenipher's Story

Jenipher developed obstetric fistula while giving birth to her fifth child. She endured a prolonged labor and waited many hours to be seen at the health center, and this facility didn’t refer her to a hospital in time. When she finally managed to get to a hospital, but it was too late—the baby was stillborn and Jenipher was leaking urine uncontrollably. Her suffering started immediately, and the hospital didn’t know how to help her. In 1998, there really was nowhere else for her to seek medical treatment.

Jenipher’s husband started sleeping with other women, telling her that her smell was unacceptable. People in her community laughed at her and blamed her for being abandoned by her husband. Jenipher struggled to make money to provide for the basic needs of her young children. She went to many traditional healers seeking help, but none of their remedies worked. After 18 years of living with fistula, she resigned herself to living with the condition for the rest of her life.

In February of 2017, Jenipher heard a comforting voice on the radio—Fistula Foundation’s Program Manager, Bwalya Chomba—speaking in a familiar language about treatment for fistula, even for those women who had lived for so many years with the condition. Maybe it wasn’t too late for her, Jenipher thought. At that moment, she made a decision. Jenipher would make the trip to Mansa and try to seek treatment one last time – she would rather die than continue to live in shame.

Jenipher received a warm reception at Mansa General Hospital by both doctors and staff. The surgeon told Jenipher that hers was a difficult case, and she had to stay longer at the hospital to ensure a full recovery. Now that she is home, she is so grateful to the Foundation and to the donors who allowed her to get the help she needed after so many years. She never imagined the day she would get better. Jenipher said that while living with fistula she was half dead, but now, after treatment, she had come back to life.

“I am so happy to be dry!” she exclaimed.

Fistula Foundation is grateful to our many dedicated partners in Zambia including the Ministry of Health and Provincial and District Health teams, and to Johnson and Johnson who generously provided funding to enable this work in Zambia.

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)
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Read Another Woman’s Story

  • 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.

  • Dembe

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    Dembe did everything right during her pregnancy—she kept up all of her prenatal doctor’s appointments, and made sure that both she and her baby stayed healthy. When her labor began, Dembe walked the 10 kilometers from her home to the nearest heath center. She expected a normal delivery, but tragically, this would not come to pass—Dembe experienced a wrenching, prolonged labor, and her child did not survive.

  • Solange

    Madagascar

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

  • Mary

    Kenya

    Mary, from rural West Pokot, Kenya, received free fistula repair surgery in 2015 after being referred for treatment by a community health worker. With a bright future ahead, she wishes to become a fistula ambassador herself.

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    Maria

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    Maria is 42 years old. She is HIV-positive and currently on antiretroviral therapy. Maria doesn’t have a permanent place to live – she cannot work because of her incontinence, and has no real income to live on. She survives through the ongoing support of her relatives and friends.

  • 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.

  • Sujata

    Nepal

    Sujata lives in Bajura, a very poor and remote mountain district in western Nepal. She lives with her husband, whom she married when she was 16 years old, and his family in a small house shared by 12 people. One year after their wedding, Sujata was looking forward to the birth of her first child. There was no health facility nearby, so when Sujata’s labor entered its eighth day, the family called on the local birth attendant.

  • Alphonsia

    Tanzania

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

  • Landy

    Madagascar

    Landy became pregnant at 14 years old. When it came time to deliver, she labored at home as most women do in her village. But after a day of excruciating pain, her labor did not progress and her family took her to the village hospital. The baby did not survive.

  • Alitash

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    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.

  • Christiana

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    Pregnant at 16, Christiana suffered with fistula for several years before her successful treatment at our partner hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Now, with the new skills she is learning through a patient rehabilitation program, she hopes to help support her family.

  • 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.

  • Nanyoor

    Tanzania

    Nanyoor experienced a terrible obstructed labor when she was only 16 years old. She is a member of the Maasai tribe in northern Tanzania, and her remote community is miles away from any major healthcare facility.

  • Mwajuma

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    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.

  • Queen

    Kenya

    “When my husband saw the many health issues I had, he despised me, he called me names and always told me in the face that I was more than crippled.” She was left on her own and most of the time starving. She reached at a point that she could not withstand the mistreatment and she went back to her parents. After a few years her parents died. “I walk like a crippled woman, there is nothing that I own on this earth, I don’t have a husband, I don’t have a baby. My life is so empty.” She has said that her deepest desire has been to die a clean woman. But at Gynocare, where she received fistula surgery through the Action on Fistula program, she is happy. Here, she feels loved and valued. She knows she has a family at Gynocare.

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