Meet Rose

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.

Rose's Story

Rose was in labor for three days before she was taken to the local clinic. Due to the limited capabilities and resources of the staff there, they referred her to the district hospital. At the hospital, doctors rushed to operate on her but it was already too late: the surgery was unable to save her baby boy, who only cried once before taking his final breath. But little did Rose know the true extent of her loss, because she soon realized that she was leaking urine continuously. She was discharged from the hospital without a diagnosis, and without any further assistance for her condition.

When Rose returned home, she felt utterly defeated. Her husband left her and married another woman. She never conceived again and led a life of isolation and sadness. A constant need to change her clothes, coupled with the fear of embarrassment and painful genital sores, forced her to stay close to the house at all times. As a result, Rose withdrew from every social activity unless her presence was absolutely required.

With a diminished capability to work on the farm because of her condition, each day Rose struggled more and more. Time and age did not solve her problems, as her hardships only continued to grow. The crucial support that she derived from her parents was lost upon their deaths, and her farm animals were stolen by thieves as word got around that she was an old woman living alone. Perhaps one of the most hopeless feelings was when Rose saw her siblings blessed with children and grandchildren while she continued to be childless and alone.

The embarrassment she felt over leaking plagued her mind at all times. “When I would be spending time with my sister’s grandchildren, they would ask me why I was not using the bathroom when my clothes would get wet,” she narrated with sadness in her eyes. Incidents like these continued to add to her grief, along with the fact that she was told that she was incontinent because she was bewitched. Rose tried seeking out traditional healers, but nothing she did could alleviate her suffering – until she met Sister Anna from Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC) in Moshi.

Sister Anna is the head nurse at KCMC’s fistula ward. She visited Rose’s district as part of an outreach trip that was funded by Fistula Foundation. The goal of the outreach trip was to build capacity for fistula identification, referral, and transportation to KCMC for treatment. The outreach team conducted educational activities, connected with local ambassadors, and identified and transported women suffering from fistula. Rose was one of these patients who was brought to KCMC as part of the outreach trip. After 50 years of living with a fistula, she has finally received the care she deserves and has been healed.

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

  • Salome

    Kenya

    Salome's labor began at night. She sought help from her mother-in-law, who immediately called Salome's husband - by cultural norms, the only one who could give permission for Salome to seek help at a hospital. But he had turned his phone off for the night and was unreachable. Her mother-in-law tried all she could throughout the night to help Salome deliver her child. By the time Salome's husband returned the call the next morning to advise that she be taken immediately to the hospital, it was too late. The baby did not survive, and Salome had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • 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.

  • Hauwa

    Nigeria

    Hauwa was 60 years old when she became aware that the fistula she had suffered with for over 40 years could be repaired for free at our partner hospital, Evangel Vesico-Vaginal Fistula Center (EVFC).

  • Fistula Foundation - Lia

    Lia

    Angola

    Lia arrived at CEML with great misgivings - she had sought help at many places for her fistula but was given no hope. A friend told her that she might find help at CEML and urged her to go, which she eventually did. She told staff there that she sat on some rocks nearby, cried and repeated “God help me” over and over before coming through the doors.

  • Harka Maya

    Nepal

    A mother of two, Harka Maya lives in Sindhuli, Nepal, roughly 80 miles (129 km) from Kathmandu. She developed a fistula last summer, while in labor with her third child. Being from a poor farming family, it was customary for her to deliver at home.

  • Christiana

    Liberia

    Pregnant at 16, Christiana suffered with fistula for several years before her successful treatment at our partner hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Now, with the new skills she is learning through a patient rehabilitation program, she hopes to help support her family.

  • Tahinomenjanahary

    Madagascar

    Tahinomenjanahary went in to labor at the age of 17. Her labor was excruciating, but she did not begin the journey to the nearest hospital until she had been in labor for more than a day. In total, she labored for three days. The baby did not survive.

  • Debora

    Angola

    Debora lives in a tiny Angolan village quite far from any emergency medical services. In 2008, she was in labor with her fourth child for nearly a week before her uncle finally brought her to a hospital.

  • Saran

    Guinea

    After developing a fistula with the birth of her fourth child, Saran received free fistula surgery at our partner site Jean Paul II Hospital in Conakry, Guinea.

  • Everlyn

    Kenya

    Everlyn developed fistula during her second pregnancy. Shunned and stigmatized by her own family, her husband stood by her side until she received successful treatment through the Action on Fistula program.

  • Landy

    Madagascar

    Landy became pregnant at 14 years old. When it came time to deliver, she labored at home as most women do in her village. But after a day of excruciating pain, her labor did not progress and her family took her to the village hospital. The baby did not survive.

  • 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.

  • Domitila

    Domitila

    Angola

    In 2012 Domitila became pregnant with her 9th baby. During her final trimester, she had a severe episode of bleeding. Her family realized this indicated the baby had died, but hoped she would still be able to push it out on her own at home. When nothing happened, they finally took her to the hospital where a hysterectomy was done. After this, she no longer was able to control her urine - she had developed a fistula.

  • Siana

    Siana

    Burundi

    Siana is 17 years old and from Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She developed an obstetric fistula after going through a difficult pregnancy at just 14.

  • Felistas

    Kenya

    Felistas developed fistula at the age of 17, after delivering a stillborn baby via Cesarian section. Her husband left her because he could not stand her condition. She suffered alone until learning one day that treatment was available through the Action on Fistula program.

  • Francine

    Madagascar

    She became pregnant with her first child around age 17. Things did not go as planned, and Francine found herself in labor for three days. Finally, she was taken to a hospital where her baby was delivered via C-section. As a result of her prolonged obstructed labor, Francine had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Mary

    Kenya

    Mary, from rural West Pokot, Kenya, received free fistula repair surgery in 2015 after being referred for treatment by a community health worker. With a bright future ahead, she wishes to become a fistula ambassador herself.

  • Helen

    Kenya

    Helen went into labor with her second child about four years ago. She gave birth in her home, where she labored for many hours, completely alone without anyone present to assist her. Her baby was stillborn and she began leaking urine immediately.