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

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    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.

  • Nura

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    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.

  • Jane

    Kenya

    Conducting patient outreach in rural western Kenya, Jane faces a number of challenges—including threats to her life—as she travels in search of women suffering with fistula. But knowing there are many women who are enjoying life once again thanks to her efforts gives great meaning to her work.

  • Grace

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    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.

  • Sujata

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    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.

  • 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.

  • Flavia

    Flavia

    Angola

    Flavia is a shy 17 year old girl who was married when she was just 15. Soon after, she became pregnant. Her labor began at home, but the family was unprepared when the labor became obstructed. Not knowing what to do, they finally took her to a hospital.

  • Evelyn

    Kenya

    “It was so painful to leave the hospital with the few clothes I had bought for my baby. It was painful to walk out of the gates empty handed [without a baby] and to worsen the matter, with the leaking of urine."

  • Chepotyeltyel

    Kenya

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  • 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.

  • 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%

  • Siana

    Siana

    Burundi

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    Brenda

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  • Alitash

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  • Fatima, from Sudan (photo credit: WAHA)

    Fatima

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    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.

  • NIrmala-Nepal

    Nirmala

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    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.

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