Fistula Foundation - Lia

Meet Lia

Lia arrived at CEML with great misgivings - she had sought help at many places for her fistula but was given no hope. A friend told her that she might find help at CEML and urged her to go, which she eventually did. She told staff there that she sat on some rocks nearby, cried and repeated “God help me” over and over before coming through the doors.

Lia's Story

Lia was 17 when she married, and soon became pregnant. After a day of labor, her mother-in-law told her not to worry, it would be alright. But the pains the next day were worse. They had not considered the option of going to a clinic because of the danger of traveling during the war – there was intense fighting nearby. After five days of labor, however, they decided it was too much and risked the journey in order to save her life. They had a bicycle, and one man sat in front and one on a back seat and carried her on their shoulders to the nearest clinic.

At the clinic, staff members were able to pull a stillborn baby from Lia’s body. Recalling that sad day, Lia said, “I wanted to die too.” After so much damage to her tissues, she was left without any control of her urine. She would change her skirt only to have it soaked again, and had to change several times a day. She could not go to church and sit down because she would leave a puddle.

Many of her family members were killed during the war. It was just Lia and her husband, who did not leave as many husbands do in the case of fistula. They went on to have three more children, all born without difficulties.

Now 49, Lia had lived with incontinence for over 30 years before arriving at CEML. After the operation to repair her fistula, she was finally dry. She could hardly allow herself to believe it. After a week, she whispered to doctors how wonderful it was to sleep in a dry bed. “If I had only known, I would have come sooner,” Lia said. She plans to let other women in the community know that there is hope when it comes to the problems resulting from an obstetric fistula.

About Angola

  • Population: 20,172,332
  • Average Births per Woman: 5.31
  • Female Literacy: 60.7%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 40.5% (less than $1.25/day)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Angola

News
Mother’s Day – You Did It!

We had our most successful Mother’s Day campaign yet, raising over $100,000 more than last year! This success was due in part to a matching gift challenge offered by a generous donor during the last few days of the campaign. This year, a generous donor stepped forward to offer a Mother’s Day match up to…

Fistula Foundation: Your Donations at Work - Angola

News
Your Donations at Work: Angola

In 2013, Fistula Foundation began working with a new partner in Damba, Angola, known as Unidade Fístula Obstétrica (UFO). UFO is the only fistula treatment center in northern Angola, a country known for its poor health care infrastructure and the highest rate of child mortality in the world. In the first half of this project…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Fistula Foundation - Elizabeth Atieno

    Sylvia

    Kenya

    Pregnant at the age of 13, Sylvia labored for two days before delivering a stillborn baby. She developed obstetric fistula, which led to two decades of shame and sadness. Then one day, she heard a radio announcement that would change her life forever.

  • Momakely

    Madagascar

    When it came time to deliver her baby, Momakely made her way to a health facility a great distance away from her home. But her labor was prolonged and difficult, and her baby did not survive. Momakely was left with an obstetric fistula for five years, until she learned about free fistula services offered by SALFA.

  • Mayeye

    Democratic Republic of Congo

    In the year 2000, Mayeye was pregnant with her fourth child. Not long after giving birth, she felt intense pain in her abdomen and began leaking urine. She had developed obstetric fistula. Despite her injury, Mayeye continued working on her family’s small farm. She had no choice but to work through the pain, because her family was depending on her.

  • Josephine-Congo

    Josephine

    Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Josephine is from the northwestern corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 34 years old, she is the mother of two healthy boys, ages 11 and 9, the only surviving children from her four pregnancies.

  • 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.

  • Mary A.

    Kenya

    Mary waited her whole life to have a child. At the age of 47 she finally became pregnant. But her labor was difficult, and her child did not survive. She developed fistula as a result. She was ostracized by her family and shunned by the entire community, until finally, at the age of 73, she finally accessed a free surgery that would change the rest of her life, and remind her what it felt like to feel "human" again.

  • Mary

    Kenya

    Mary's first two pregnancies progressed normally, giving her two healthy children. But she never could have imagined what would happen when it came time to deliver her third child.

  • 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.

  • Brenda

    Brenda

    Kenya

    Thanks to a newly opened fistula hospital close to her home in Kisii, Kenya, 17-year-old Brenda was able to get treatment after six months. Now that she is healed, she has dreams of returning to school to become a nurse.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Bilkis

    Bangladesh

    Bilkis is just 20 years old. She developed an obstetric fistula during the delivery of her first baby. Bilkis delivered under the guidance of a traditional birth attendant who encouraged her to continue her labor at home despite the fact that she had already been in labor for two days.

  • Debora

    Angola

    Debora lives in a tiny Angolan village quite far from any emergency medical services. In 2008, she was in labor with her fourth child for nearly a week before her uncle finally brought her to a hospital.

  • Fistula Foundation - Khadija

    Khadijah

    Chad

    Khadijah lived with fistula for 18 years, and it isolated her from everything and everyone around her. Originally from Chad's northern region of Bar Elgazel, she was married when she was only 14 years old. Her first pregnancy came three years afterwards and, not knowing the importance of seeking health care or treatment, she never received any prenatal care.

  • 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.

  • Janet

    Kenya

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

  • 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.