Fistula Foundation Board Chair Bill Mann has been passionate about delivering life-changing care to women suffering from obstetric fistula since his first visit to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 2011. This January, he had a little time to fill, so he booked a plane ticket to visit Fistula Foundation partners in Malawi, Kenya, Madagascar…
Pastor Raphael's Story
He has now been a pastor for nearly three decades. He has dedicated his life to providing spiritual guidance in his community as well as to pass along important knowledge. The West Pokot region, he says, has little education and faces many challenges due to lack of awareness on how to prevent and treat illnesses.
Girls and women in particular face many challenges. Pastor Raphael explains that female genital cutting is nearly universal in this community, with girls as young as nine or ten undergoing the ritual. Girls often get married off at a very tender age and start child bearing when they are still very young. Most women choose to deliver at home because they are more comfortable in that setting and that is what everyone in their family has always done, and the nearest hospital is very far away – nearly four hours.
Pastor Raphael is pleased with the training he received from WADADIA in July 2014, and learned many things that he did not know and was able to come back to share with the community. He has been working closely with chiefs and other religious leaders to spread the message about fistula, and they are glad to assist in helping women get treatment. “The women really suffer when they have this condition,” explains Pastor Raphael. Many of their husbands chase them away when they learn they are leaking and smelling. Other women become very isolated. Women with fistula also find it hard to make a living; many women collect and sell the water from the aloe vera plant to earn a small income, but when they have fistula they are unable to do this work and therefore can’t earn money.
Pastor Raphael acknowledges that it can be challenging to convince women to come to the hospital for surgery, as they have many doubts and anxieties about leaving. “How will my children be cared for? Who will care for my animals? How will I manage to get transport? And will I be OK when I return?” These are all familiar questions to Pastor Raphael, who spends a lot of time counseling women and reassuring them before they feel comfortable enough to go to the hospital for treatment.
Pastor Raphael praises the work of WADADIA and the donors that have contributed to its work. He says that this work should continue, as there are still so many women who need help. “Keep on coming, keep up the good works because the people of Pokot need help. And God bless you so much.”
- 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)