Fistula Foundation - Hellen Aoko

Meet Margaret

Margaret is 36 years old and from a very remote village in southwestern Kenya. In this area, child marriage and polygamy are very common. At 16 years old, Margaret’s parents arranged for her to become the third wife of a man more than three times her age. She tried to resist, but eventually gave in to the marriage due to pressure from her family and community.

Margaret's Story

After a few months, Margaret became pregnant with her first child. She delivered her baby at home with the help of her co-wives, and over the next few years delivered two additional children at home without issue. In 2010 Margaret became pregnant with her fourth child – the pregnancy went as smoothly as the first three, but the delivery did not. She labored at home for two days with the help of her co-wives, who eventually took her to get medical attention. It took them six hours on a motorbike to reach the nearest health center, and upon arrival the center was so ill-equipped that it lacked even the most basic medical supplies such as aspirin and gloves. It took another four hours for Margaret to reach the district hospital, where a C-section was finally performed.

When Margaret regained consciousness following the procedure, she was in excruciating pain. “I did not only lose my baby, but I also lost my uterus and ability to hold urine,” Margaret said. She soon lost her position as the youngest wife in the household because her husband wanted a new wife who could bear him more children. “I live a lonely life because my husband hardly comes to my house, his attention is on his new young and clean wife. I feel used and dumped, and my co-wives no longer help me as they used to.”

Thankfully, Margaret heard about our Action on Fistula program through a relative. She was linked with our outreach partner, Disciples of Mercy, who referred her for treatment at Gynocare Fistula Center. Her surgery was successful and she is currently in recovery. Margaret looks forward to putting her life back together when she returns home.

About Kenya

  • Population: 45,010,056
  • Average Births per Woman: 3.54
  • Female Literacy: 84.2%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 43.4% (less than $1.25/day)
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We’re Making a Difference in Kenya

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Francine

    Madagascar

    She became pregnant with her first child around age 17. Things did not go as planned, and Francine found herself in labor for three days. Finally, she was taken to a hospital where her baby was delivered via C-section. As a result of her prolonged obstructed labor, Francine had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Justine

    Uganda

    Justine is 37 years old and lives in Bumasiki , a small village in Bugiri District in Uganda. When her labor pains began, she prepared to go to the hospital but didn’t have enough money to get there. She arrived 20 hours later after gathering sufficient funds from friends and neighbors; but by then, she had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Aidah

    Nigeria

    72 year old Aidah lived with obstetric fistula for an astounding 41 years before accessing treatment at Evangel Vesico-Vaginal Fistula Center in Jos. Her family stuck by her side the entire time, and recounted to hospital staff how fistula severely limited her (and their) opportunities and success in life.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Djinto

    Democratic Republic of Congo

    Djinto tried to do everything right. She attended regular prenatal sessions to prepare for the birth of her child. Her pregnancy progressed normally, though she had been warned that the child she carried was too large for Djinto’s young 17 year old body to handle.

  • 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.

  • Rahila

    Guinea

    Rahila never had the opportunity to attend school; instead, she sells donuts in the market and farms for a living. She married at age 14 and became pregnant soon thereafter. Unfortunately, Rahila developed obstetric fistula during delivery and was left leaking urine and feces.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Kaudha

    Uganda

    Kaudha is from eastern Uganda. At age 27, she developed a fistula after spending hours in labor with her third child. Unfortunately, the baby did not survive, and Kaudha’s condition left her feeling isolated from friends and loved ones. But in fall 2015, her story—and her outlook—changed dramatically.

  • Halima, from Somalia (photo credit: WAHA)

    Halima

    Somalia

    Halima is yet another brave fistula survivor from Somalia. “When I went to labour, the pain got stronger and stronger and lasted on and on. Something was not right. It took two days to convince my husband to bring me to a health facility. The doctors that saw me decided to immediately carry out a cesarean section. But they had no anesthesia. The pain was unbearable, and when I screamed they started beating me. My baby could not be saved and I developed what I later learned was an obstetric fistula. My husband left me because he could not stand the smell caused by my injury.”

  • 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.

  • 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.