Meet Maho

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.

Maho's Story

Maho was only 16 when she had her first child. Now 20, she is mother to two healthy children. But 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. She had developed obstetric fistula as a result of her prolonged obstructed labor.

Only Maho’s family knew of her injury. They were supportive, as was her husband, and took good care of her. But she stayed inside, isolating herself from her friends because she didn’t want them to smell her.

A local doctor told her about free treatment available through SALFA, a Fistula Foundation partner. Her father, Joseph, accompanied her for the 90km journey to SALFA’s treatment facility in Morondava. There, she received fistula surgery that would change her life.

On leaving the hospital, Joseph told SALFA staff that he would spread the word that there is a place for women to receive help. It is a common rumor among Malagasy people that surgery is bad, that surgeons cannot be trusted – especially surgeons providing free surgery – because they will steal body parts. But Joseph wants to change that. He wants to tell everyone that there are doctors in Morondava who treat fistula, that they will treat it for free, and that “nothing is removed from your body, it is only repaired.”

“Come to [the SALFA hospital in Morondava],” Joseph says, “you will be treated for free. Bring the women who are concerned by this problem; there are already people flowing. They are healed! Do come please because this [injury] is horrible.”

About Madagascar

  • Population: 24,430,325
  • Average Births per Woman: 4.12
  • Female Literacy: 62.6%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 75.3% (less than $1.25/day)
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Fistula Foundation’s work in Madagascar wouldn’t be the same without the amazing support of our partner, Icon. Read their Giveback recap blog post below, and the stories of women at SALFA, our partner in Madagascar: How You Changed These Women’s Lives 12/19/17 written by Natalie Pattillo How You Changed These Women’s Lives As a women-led…

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.

  • Vinesy

    Madagascar

    Vinesy had surgery in April 2013 for appendicitis, but something went wrong and she became incontinent as a result. She had developed an iatrogenic fistula as a result of the procedure and had begun to leak urine uncontrollably.

  • 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.

  • Selina

    Kenya

    Selina, a traditional birth attendant from remote West Pokot, Kenya, helped eight women from her village get life-changing fistula surgery. And she’s not done yet.

  • Everlyn

    Kenya

    Everlyn developed fistula during her second pregnancy. Shunned and stigmatized by her own family, her husband stood by her side until she received successful treatment through the Action on Fistula program.

  • Esther

    Kenya

    Esther gave birth to her second child, Manuel, less than one year ago. She was encouraged to stay at home to deliver the baby, where she labored for three days with the help of a traditional birth attendant. Fortunately, she gave birth to a lively baby boy. However, after four days she noticed she was leaking urine and was unable to control it.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Awetu

    Tanzania

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

  • Rose

    Madagascar

    Rose developed obstetric fistula at the age of 16, during her first delivery. Life became very difficult for her, in a number of ways. She is not married, and her father is dead. Survival became a challenge.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Mildred

    Kenya

    Mildred developed fistula after prolonged, obstructed labor with her second child. She endured two difficult months of life with fistula before receiving treatment through our Action on Fistula program.

  • 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.

  • Ana-Angola

    Ana

    Angola

    Today, Ana is 18 years old, with an enthusiastic outlook and bubbly smile. That wasn’t always the case. Ana was just shy of 16 years old when she became pregnant. Everything went well, until it was time to deliver. Her labor was excruciating, and lasted for days.

  • Nura

    Chad

    Nura comes from Lai, a region in the south of Chad where she married at age 17. She first became pregnant at 20 and tried to give birth at home, aided only by her family. After 4 days of complicated labor, she was finally taken to the maternity center in Guidari, a nearby village.

  • Nathi-Uganda

    Nathi

    Uganda

    Nathi* lives in Uganda. She was married at the age of 13 and two years later was pregnant with her first child. After enduring a difficult labor, Nathi lost her baby and was left with obstetric fistula, incontinent and leaking wastes. Her husband abandoned her and soon after, her family did, too. At 15, she was alone and scared.