Meet Naomi

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.

Naomi's Story

Despite a traumatic 12 hour delivery, Naomi’s baby survived. The baby was too big to fit through her pelvis and in a breech position that made the delivery even more difficult. Staff at the Tanga Health Center were able to safely deliver the baby boy, but the damage to Naomi’s body had already been done. Five days after returning home, she noticed she was leaking urine.

“I did not know what fistula was before I developed it and I was not sure why I was leaking. After I developed fistula, I stayed at home with my parents. I was very sad that I could not go to any celebrations or see my neighbors because I was ashamed for anyone to see my leaking,” Naomi explained. Thankfully, Naomi’s relatives were understanding and supportive and refused to separate from her. She did, however, experience a different type of loss: the loss of her business.

“Before I had fistula, I owned a cosmetics shop. After my baby was born, I could not go back to my shop because I had spent  the money that I would need to purchase more supplies for my business on my health and fistula expenses. I also had to spend more time washing my clothes because I was leaking in them a lot and I did not want to leak in front of my customers.”

Naomi lived with fistula for seven months before a doctor in Tanga told her about CCBRT in Dar es Salaam and informed her that her condition was treatable. Thanks to CCBRT’s M-PESA program (a program where transport money is provided via mobile phones in order to help women get to the hospital), Naomi made the 200 mile journey to CCBRT and was admitted for fistula repair surgery. In a new city and preparing to undergo surgery, she naturally had concerns. “Before surgery, I was worried that I would be in pain and that it would not be successful.”

Naomi’s surgery WAS successful in fact, and she is now recovering pain-­free at CCBRT. She is happy to be completely dry, and to have her beautiful, healthy son with her. She will soon be able to return home to her family and community. When asked what message she would like to send to other women in Tanzania who are living with fistula, she replied, “Fistula IS treatable. When you have fistula, go to CCBRT for treatment.”

About Tanzania

  • Population: 49,639,138
  • Average Births per Woman: 4.95
  • Female Literacy: 60.8%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 67.9% (less than $1.25/day)
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Read Another Woman’s Story

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Momakely

    Madagascar

    When it came time to deliver her baby, Momakely made her way to a health facility a great distance away from her home. But her labor was prolonged and difficult, and her baby did not survive. Momakely was left with an obstetric fistula for five years, until she learned about free fistula services offered by SALFA.

  • Hadija

    Guinea

    By age 27, Hadija had already given birth to four children. Sadly, only two of her children survived. Making things worse, her last pregnancy left Hadija with an obstetric fistula.

  • Kabuli, from Afghanistan (photo credit: CURE International)

    Kabuli

    Afghanistan

    Kabuli, from Afghanistan, is the third of four wives. When she developed a fistula after enduring obstructed labor without any emergency medical care, her husband forced her into isolation within his home. Living in shame, Kabuli thought she would be miserable for the rest of her life.

  • 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.

  • Annonciata

    Uganda

    Annonciata is a 56-year old mother and farmer from a small village in Budaka District in Uganda. She had previously given birth to six children without significant complications, but her seventh delivery did not go as planned.

  • 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.

  • Towanda

    Zimbabwe

    Towanda is 20 years old and from a rural area just outside of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. Four years ago at the age of 16, she became pregnant. When the time came to deliver, there were a lot of complications.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Lida

    Afghanistan

    Lida gave birth to her first and only child 12 years ago. Sadly, the baby died shortly after it was born. Not only that, but Lida developed a fistula during the difficult delivery and started leaking urine constantly from that day.

  • Confidence from Liberia (WAHA)

    Confidence

    Liberia

    Pregnant with her second child, Confidence went to a local hospital to deliver her baby. But when her labor became obstructed, hospital staff weren’t able to perform the necessary Cesarean section and transferred her to a larger facility. Sadly, it was too late.

  • 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.

  • Goni-Ethiopia

    Goni

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    Goni is fifteen years old and lives in a small village in the hills of northeastern Ethiopia. She married and became pregnant. During labor she developed a fistula; her husband abandoned her after the injury became apparent.

  • Umuhoza

    Rwanda

    Umuhoza arrived at the hospital with two massive fistulas and could barely walk. She was so traumatized by her labor that she could not remember any details. Today she is healed, but the road to recovery has been long and difficult.

  • Ana-Angola

    Ana

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    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.

  • Halima, from Somalia (photo credit: WAHA)

    Halima

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