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)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Zambia

News
Field Notes: A 10-Hour Bus Ride and a Long Journey to Healing

By Lindsey Pollaczek, Senior Program Director Lupaula Province, Zambia — Amidst the throngs of women and children at Kabole Health Center in northern Zambia, twenty women slowly boarded a dusty green bus with Mansa General Hospital emblazoned in white lettering on the side. As the women took their seats and waited for the bus to…

Group CHV Training Mpika, Zambia

News
Field Notes: Getting the word out in Zambia

By Lindsey Pollaczek, Senior Program Director MPIKA, Zambia — Last week we completed the first training for community health volunteers here in Mpika, northern Zambia, our first step toward establishing a nationwide fistula treatment network in the country. Applying lessons learned in running our Action on Fistula program in Kenya for the past three years,…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Beatrice-Kenya

    Beatrice

    Kenya

    Beatrice is 17 she lives in Western Kenya. Many women with fistula suffer for years or decades before they are able to access surgical treatment. Fortunately for Beatrice, who was 16 when she developed fistula, it was less than a month before she received treatment at the Nyanza Provincial General Hospital in Kisumu, Kenya. Beatrice developed fistula after laboring at home for two days in the presence of a traditional birth attendant.

  • Salha

    Tanzania

    Salha had a complicated and prolonged labor before she was finally brought to a hospital in the Mtwara region of Tanzania. There she received an emergency C-section section, but it was too late. Tragically, Salha’s baby had already died. A few days later, Salha realized she was leaking urine.

  • Kabuli, from Afghanistan (photo credit: CURE International)

    Kabuli

    Afghanistan

    Kabuli, from Afghanistan, is the third of four wives. When she developed a fistula after enduring obstructed labor without any emergency medical care, her husband forced her into isolation within his home. Living in shame, Kabuli thought she would be miserable for the rest of her life.

  • Christiana

    Liberia

    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.

  • 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.

  • Rasoanandrasana

    Madagascar

    Rasoanandrasana's body had gone through a great deal of trauma from childbirth. At the tender age of 15, she was married, and it wasn't long after that she became pregnant. Her labor lasted more than 12 hours before her doctor delivered via Caesarian section. Her baby did not survive, and Rasoanandrasana was left with obstetric fistula.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Betty

    Kenya

    Betty developed fistula during her first pregnancy, after laboring at home for seven days. Her baby did not survive. Today, she is healthy once again thanks to free surgery provided through the Action on Fistula program.

  • Christine

    Kenya

    Despite the efforts of one dedicated doctor who rode over an hour by motorbike late in the evening to help save the life of Christine and her baby, the baby did not survive. Her prolonged labor also resulted in obstetric fistula. Her husband abandoned her because he could not stand the smell of her incontinence, but her brothers defied cultural tradition and insisted she and her five children live with them. Then, a radio advertisement changed her life.

  • Zatindravelo

    Madagascar

    When it came time to deliver her baby, Zatindravelo dutifully made her way to a medical facility to deliver, but her labor took a turn for the worse when there were no doctors or nurses present to assist her when she needed them most. She labored for 17 hours with her first child. The child did not survive. As a result of her prolonged, unrelieved labor, she had developed obstetric fistula.