Obstetric fistula happens most frequently in rural areas, where emergency medical care is not easily accessible. A woman’s risk of developing fistula is also exacerbated by cultural misunderstanding about doctors and surgery. Madagascar faces both of these challenges: its infrastructure is poor, which can make travel to the hospital complicated and dangerous. Also, there is…
Ndatsaha is from the village of Manja, about 250km from the nearest large city, Morondava. She developed fistula when she went in to labor with her third child. She sought the services of a traditional birth attendant, as she had with her previous pregnancies, and as most women did in her community. But this time, things were different. The baby did not come, and Ndatsaha labored in excruciating pain for three days.
One month later, she realized that she had begun to leak urine. She sought treatment, first with the local health provider in her village, but he could not help. He gave her medicine, injections, tablets – none of which worked to stop her incontinence. She tried is recommendations for two years before giving up. She thought her condition was incurable, and resigned herself to live with it.
But life was not easy for Ndatsaha. Her family was supportive of her, but most of her friends rejected her because of her condition. Other members of her community would tell her to go away because she was leaking, and because she smelled. It was difficult for her to move around – and besides, she was scared to leave her home – so she stayed in the house most days.
But then she learned from neighbors about SALFA and care they provided to women like her at their hospital in Morondava. She was willing to try anything.
The SALFA hospital in Morondava reimbursed her for the cost of her transport to their facility, Ndatsaha said. They provided her with food and good care. Here, she finally received treatment that cured her obstetric fistula.
As she healed from surgery, Ndatsaha found herself sitting with four other women recovering in the fistula ward. They shared their stories with each other, and decided that they needed to tell other women about their experience and the help they had received. That day, they decided to become fistula ambassadors.
Post-surgery, Ndatsaha feels very good. She feels strong. And she feels “cool” now that she is able to wear shorts again – something she had avoided when she had fistula, opting instead for long skirts to hide the trickle of urine that leaked down her legs. She even participated in a Health Awareness Day that was organized in Morondava by SALFA. She was invited as an ambassador and spoke to the audience about fistula, what it is, and how SALFA could help. She encouraged others to come for treatment.
During the event, she was interviewed by media and felt an outpouring of respect – something she hadn’t felt in years. Today, she is considered one of the hospital’s best ambassadors, having referred more than 5 women for treatment.
- Population: 24,430,325
- Average Births per Woman: 4.12
- Female Literacy: 62.6%
- Population Living in Poverty: 75.3% (less than $1.25/day)