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

News
Action on Fistula: An Innovative Program to End Obstetric Fistula

Borgen Magazine highlights the Action on Fistula program in Kenya, interviewing Fistula Foundation Senior Program Director Lindsey Pollaczek. Read the full article at the link below: Action on Fistula: An Innovative Program to End Obstetric Fistula KENYA – Gladys, a 26 years old mother of two, felt helpless after the labor and birth of her…

News
Margaret’s Story

Margaret received free treatment through Fistula Foundation’s Action on Fistula program. In this video, she shares her story.

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Ravony

    Madagascar

    For the last eight years, Ravony has suffered with obstetric fistula, which caused her to leak urine uncontrollably. Her fistula was the result of a five day labor that ended in the death of her child.

  • Naresia Kenya

    Naresia

    Kenya

    Naresia is a Masai girl from a rural village in Kenya. Only five months ago, at the age of 14, Naresia gave birth to a baby. After a prolonged and difficult labor, she awoke to find her bed soaked with urine. The doctors informed her that the delivery process had left her with an obstetric fistula and she was now incontinent.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hamida-Bangladesh

    Hamida

    Bangladesh

    Hamida is a young woman of twenty five from Teknaf in the Cox's Bazar District, a town remotely located at the southernmost point of mainland Bangladesh, at the Myanmar border. When Hamida was only thirteen years old, she was married. She became pregnant and gave birth at home with no medical help, preferring home as a safe place for delivery as more than 95 percent of women do in her region, for fear of hospital costs.

  • Sofia - WAHA

    Sofia

    Liberia

    At 16, Sofia lost her baby boy in childbirth and developed a fistula, prompting her husband to leave her. Unaware what her condition was called or that treatment was possible, she became almost completely isolated over the next three years, giving up hope of ever being healed. A radio ad changed her life.

  • 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.

  • Naomi

    Tanzania

    Naomi arrived at Tanga Health Center in northeastern Tanzania as a glowing 24 year old expectant mother and businesswoman with a supportive family and a bright future. She returned home with a healthy baby, but also a devastating condition that threatened to diminish that future - obstetric fistula.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Levine

    Madagascar

    Levine never imagined that appendicitis surgery would result in an injury that could devastate her life.

  • Seline

    Kenya

    Seline lives in a small village in the remote region of West Pokot, Kenya. She did not go to school and married young, as is tradition in this pastoralist community. She went into labor with her fourth child about three years ago, preferring to give birth at home with a traditional birth attendant from her village. Only 18% of women give birth in a health center in this region of Kenya, far below the national average of 44%

  • 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.

  • Harka Maya

    Nepal

    A mother of two, Harka Maya lives in Sindhuli, Nepal, roughly 80 miles (129 km) from Kathmandu. She developed a fistula last summer, while in labor with her third child. Being from a poor farming family, it was customary for her to deliver at home.