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 – 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…

News
Social Media Roundup: Kristi Eaton, Writer in Residence

Meet Fistula Foundation’s first-ever Writer in Residence: Kristi Eaton! Kristi is a veteran journalist who is passionate about issues facing women and indigenous peoples, global poverty, and social entrepreneurship. She’s traveled the world reporting on these topics for The Associated Press, NBC News, The Washington Post, Ms. Magazine, and more. Kristi spent three weeks in Zambia on…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • 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.

  • Solange

    Madagascar

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

  • Romenisoa

    Madagascar

    Today, Romenisoa is happy because her free surgery was successful, and she is no longer leaking. She is happy and grateful that now she can do her farming in peace, free from fistula.

  • Dembe

    Uganda

    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.

  • Hauwa

    Nigeria

    Hauwa was 60 years old when she became aware that the fistula she had suffered with for over 40 years could be repaired for free at our partner hospital, Evangel Vesico-Vaginal Fistula Center (EVFC).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Awetu

    Tanzania

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

  • 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.

  • Jane

    Kenya

    Conducting patient outreach in rural western Kenya, Jane faces a number of challenges—including threats to her life—as she travels in search of women suffering with fistula. But knowing there are many women who are enjoying life once again thanks to her efforts gives great meaning to her work.

  • Reeta

    Nepal

    Reeta arrived at International Nepal Foundation's fistula clinic with her younger son, Tej. They live in Kanchenpur, a 9 hour journey by bus from Surkhet. Reeta developed an obstetric fistula after her youngest son’s birth 33 years ago. She had delivered two sons previously at home without difficulty, but the third labor was more complicated.

  • Domitila

    Domitila

    Angola

    In 2012 Domitila became pregnant with her 9th baby. During her final trimester, she had a severe episode of bleeding. Her family realized this indicated the baby had died, but hoped she would still be able to push it out on her own at home. When nothing happened, they finally took her to the hospital where a hysterectomy was done. After this, she no longer was able to control her urine - she had developed a fistula.

  • Padma

    Nepal

    “I have a second life. I am so thankful to Dr. Shirley, and so thankful to my husband who stood by me.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Fatima, from Sudan (photo credit: WAHA)

    Fatima

    Sudan

    Fatima lives in Sudan. She went into labor at the age of 16, but initially didn't have access to a hospital. By the time she was taken to the hospital, the baby was dead, and Fatima developed an obstetric fistula. Her husband divorced her, leaving Fatima emotionally shattered by the loss of her husband and first born child.

  • 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.

  • 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.