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
A game-changer for fistula in Kenya

Launched in 2014 thanks to support from Astellas Pharma EMEA, Action on Fistula has provided training to increase the number of surgeons treating fistula in Kenya, developed a countrywide network of hospitals offering free treatment, and has delivered free reparative surgery to more than 2,500 women suffering from this devastating childbirth injury.

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…

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.

  • Yvonne

    Zambia

    After suffering from obstetric fistula for 17 years, Yvonne boarded a bus that would take her to treatment. She was hopeful that on her return ride, she would be traveling in a dry dress for the first time in nearly two decades.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • Annet Jane

    Annet Jane

    Uganda

    Pregnant at 14, Annet Jane suffered with a fistula for 23 years before receiving treatment. Now, she has hope for the future.

  • Levine

    Madagascar

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

  • Serafina

    Angola

    Serafina is 18 years old and from the Mukubal tribe in southwestern Angola. Married off at a young age and one of several wives, Serafina became pregnant when she was 14. She is very small-boned and was suffering from malnutrition when she came to the hospital, as food is often scarce in that part of the country. As a result of that and other factors, her delivery did not go well.

  • Halima

    Halima

    Kenya

    Originally from Somalia and now living in Kenya, in the world’s largest refugee camp, Halima has been through a hell few can imagine. But after traveling over 1,000 miles seeking fistula treatment, she is finally healed.

  • 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.

  • Chepotyeltyel

    Kenya

    Chepotyeltyel is a Pokot woman from a remote, rural area in northwestern Kenya. After suffering with fistula for nearly 50 years, she was finally able to receive free fistula treatment in July 2016.

  • Janet

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

  • Fistula Foundation - Nazneen

    Nazneen

    Pakistan

    Nazneen is a 47 year old mother of six who resides in the Balochistan region of Pakistan. She had been living with fistula for 14 years after experiencing a prolonged labor while giving birth to her sixth child.

  • Habiba-Niger

    Habiba

    Niger

    Habiba was married at 16 and pregnant with her first child soon thereafter. She began labor at home, as most women do in Niger. After enduring two days of painful, obstructed labor, she was sent in an ox-cart to the nearest hospital. By the time she received a Caesarian section, Habiba had been in labor for four days. Her baby did not survive.

  • 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.

  • Fistula Foundation - Lia

    Lia

    Angola

    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.

  • Fina

    Tanzania

    Sixteen years ago, a childbirth injury turned Fina’s life upside down. But after losing everything—her health, her husband, even her own family—she was determined to take her future into her own hands.