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Meet Rahima

When Rahima was just 13 she was married to save her family money on living costs. She soon became pregnant and suffered through prolonged, obstructed labor that left her incontinent. She lived with obstetric fistula for 12 years before finally finding help through our partners at HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh.

Rahima's Story

When Rahima was just 13 she was married to save her family money on living costs. Her mother says that “It was our luck” to marry Rahima off so young; even with paying her husband a dowry of 1 Lakh, the family was relieved of the financial burden of supporting her.

She soon became pregnant and went into labor at home without the help of a skilled birth attendant, like over two thirds of Bangladeshi women. In great pain, Rahima knew something was wrong when she felt that the baby wasn’t able to come out. Her labor was obstructed. After a day of labor at home with no relief, her husband and mother finally took her to the hospital where the doctors discovered that her baby had already died.

Yet her trauma was not over. During this obstructed labor, Rahima had developed an obstetric fistula, a hole between her birth canal and bladder that affects an estimated 1 million women around the world. The obstetric fistula causes a woman to be incontinent, leaking urine constantly for the rest of her life or until a repair surgery closes the hole.

Rahima says the urinary incontinence soon followed her return from the hospital. Her husband could not stand the smell of her and divorced her to remarry another woman. She was rejected from her neighbors, and moved in with her mother, the only person who would be around her because of her smell. Today, Rahima is 30 years old and has suffered from the isolation and shame of fistula for over 15 years.

Rahima heard about the free fistula repair services funded by Fistula Foundation at HOPE Hospital for the Women and Children of Bangladesh in Cox’s Bazar. She and her mother traveled from their rural area to the city for the fistula surgery, and she is hopeful for a future free from fistula. She says: “I am very happy. My problem will be solved so I came to HOPE Hospital.”

About Bangladesh

  • Population: 168,957,745
  • Average Births per Woman: 2.45
  • Female Literacy: 58.5%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 43.3% (less than $1.25/day)
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We’re Making a Difference in Bangladesh

News
HOPE in Bangladesh

Since 2010, Fistula Foundation has been proud to partner with HOPE Foundation for Women and Children. Their bustling hospital is located in Cox’s Bazar, a small city near the border with Myanmar. HOPE is a lifeline to impoverished women in the area—and to the recent influx of Rohingya refugees, fleeing intense persecution in Myanmar. Check…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Fatima, from Sudan (photo credit: WAHA)

    Fatima

    Sudan

    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.

  • Mulamba

    Democratic Republic of Congo

    With her health restored, Mulamba is eager to return to her job as a schoolteacher.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Ndatsaha

    Madagascar

    Ndatsaha 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.

  • Rose

    Tanzania

    Rose developed a fistula after her very first pregnancy, and has been suffering because of it ever since. For over fifty years she struggled, never knowing that treatment was available....until recently when she met Sister Anna, the head nurse of Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center's fistula ward in Moshi.

  • Kaudha

    Uganda

    Kaudha is from eastern Uganda. At age 27, she developed a fistula after spending hours in labor with her third child. Unfortunately, the baby did not survive, and Kaudha’s condition left her feeling isolated from friends and loved ones. But in fall 2015, her story—and her outlook—changed dramatically.

  • Betty

    Kenya

    Betty developed fistula during her first pregnancy, after laboring at home for seven days. Her baby did not survive. Today, she is healthy once again thanks to free surgery provided through the Action on Fistula program.

  • Molia

    Zambia

    In 1996, Molia was pregnant with twins during her seventh pregnancy. Her mother was a traditional birth attendant, so the first twin was delivered at home. But the second one was delivered at a rural health center and her delivery became obstructed. The baby did not survive. After her delivery, she sat on a bike and noticed she was wet. 

  • Margaret and Rose

    Kenya

    At the age of 14, Margaret was raped while fetching water at the local stream. She became pregnant as a result, and endured a difficult labor, which resulted in a stillborn baby and an obstetric fistula. An orphan, Margaret had nowhere to go, and nobody to help her through this terrible tragedy – except her sister, Rose.

  • Salha

    Tanzania

    Salha had a complicated and prolonged labor before she was finally brought to a hospital in the Mtwara region of Tanzania. There she received an emergency C-section section, but it was too late. Tragically, Salha’s baby had already died. A few days later, Salha realized she was leaking urine.

  • Blandine

    Madagascar

    Blandine was so happy to be free of her fistula, that "she honestly couldn't stop laughing, which was so heartwarming!"

  • Florinda

    Angola

    Living in a small village in central Angola, Florinda was married in her teens and became pregnant at 16. Without access to emergency obstetric care, her difficult delivery caused her to develop a fistula. But today, she is smiling again.

  • Chepotyeltyel

    Kenya

    Chepotyeltyel is a Pokot woman from a remote, rural area in northwestern Kenya. After suffering with fistula for nearly 50 years, she was finally able to receive free fistula treatment in July 2016.

  • Cellina

    Kenya

    Cellina Nyasugutha is a community health volunteer with Daraja Mbili, an outreach program based in Kisii.

  • Mary

    Kenya

    Mary's first two pregnancies progressed normally, giving her two healthy children. But she never could have imagined what would happen when it came time to deliver her third child.

  • Mwajuma

    Kenya

    Mwajuma developed a fistula while in labor with her seventh child. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before she met Mariam, who helped her get free treatment through our Action on Fistula program in Kenya. With her health restored, Mwajuma now has plans to start a new business so she can help support her family.

  • Mary A.

    Kenya

    Mary waited her whole life to have a child. At the age of 47 she finally became pregnant. But her labor was difficult, and her child did not survive. She developed fistula as a result. She was ostracized by her family and shunned by the entire community, until finally, at the age of 73, she finally accessed a free surgery that would change the rest of her life, and remind her what it felt like to feel "human" again.