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
Daily Nation: An estimated 3,000 obstetric fistula cases are reported annually, but only a third receive treatment due to lack of specialists

Fistula Foundation Senior Program Director Lindsey Pollaczek and Outreach Manager Habiba Corodhia Mohamed are interviewed for a story about the success of our Action on Fistula program in Kenya, which combines extensive community outreach with surgeon training to find and treat more women suffering from fistula. Lack of specialists hinders treatment of fistula cases An estimated…

News
Reuters: As surgeries triple, Kenya aims to end shame of fistula

Reuters reports on Kenya’s aim to end the shame of obstetric fistula nationwide, tripling treatment surgeries and increasing capacity through opening treatment centers and training surgeons. Read the full article at the link below: As surgeries triple, Kenya aims to end shame of fistula NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Kenya’s hopes of ending incontinence caused…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • 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.

  • Maho

    Madagascar

    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.

  • Sujata

    Nepal

    Sujata lives in Bajura, a very poor and remote mountain district in western Nepal. She lives with her husband, whom she married when she was 16 years old, and his family in a small house shared by 12 people. One year after their wedding, Sujata was looking forward to the birth of her first child. There was no health facility nearby, so when Sujata’s labor entered its eighth day, the family called on the local birth attendant.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Action on Fistula - Jane

    Jane and Elizabeth

    Kenya

    After suffering five miscarriages, Jane prepared to deliver her first child. But two days of difficult labor left Jane with an obstetric fistula. At home, she became traumatized by isolation and mistreatment from her husband, who had taken another wife. Her sister, Elizabeth, stepped in.

  • Siana

    Siana

    Burundi

    Siana is 17 years old and from Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She developed an obstetric fistula after going through a difficult pregnancy at just 14.

  • 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.

  • Alitash

    Ethiopia

    Alitash is 56 years old and lives in a small village about 50 kilometers east of Aira, a large town in western Ethiopia. She has given birth three times – her first two children died as teenagers, and the third was stillborn.

  • Awetu

    Tanzania

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Fistula Foundation - Kamala

    Kamala

    Nepal

    Kamala is a 47 year old mother of four and from a very remote area of western Nepal known as Dailekh. She lived with fistula for eight years, but thankfully is one of few patients who had the support of her husband the entire time.

  • Pushpa

    Nepal

    Pushpa is approximately 50 years old and from a remote village in western Nepal. When she arrived at Kathmandu Model Hospital, she was leaking urine and feces uncontrollably and was severely depressed.

  • 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.

  • Grace

    Kenya

    Grace got married in 1994, and explained that she immediately felt a burden upon herself to give birth to as many children as possible as quickly as possible in order to earn respect and stability in her marriage. This, she said, is the status quo in the rural African context.

  • NIrmala-Nepal

    Nirmala

    Nepal

    Nirmala is 25. She lives in Doti, in the far western region of Nepal. For many years, she lived in India, where her husband had found work. While living in India, she gave birth to her first child, a stillborn baby that was delivered after 24 hours of difficult labor that left Nirmala with a double fistula, in her bowels and bladder.