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

  • Odeline

    Chad

    As is the norm in Chad, Odeline was married at the age of 23 and soon became pregnant. The pregnancy went well and she delivered a healthy baby boy. Three years later she also delivered her second baby girl without problems. In 2006, she became pregnant with her third child. She carried the baby for nine months and expected the labor to be normal as in her first two deliveries, but after having been in labor for more than two days it was obvious something was seriously wrong.

  • Hamida-Bangladesh

    Hamida

    Bangladesh

    Hamida is a young woman of twenty five from Teknaf in the Cox's Bazar District, a town remotely located at the southernmost point of mainland Bangladesh, at the Myanmar border. When Hamida was only thirteen years old, she was married. She became pregnant and gave birth at home with no medical help, preferring home as a safe place for delivery as more than 95 percent of women do in her region, for fear of hospital costs.

  • Fatma

    Tanzania

    When 18 year-old Fatma became pregnant, she did not have early and quality access to the healthcare she wanted when she gave birth. Fatma developed a fistula as a result of prolonged labor.

  • Sodreine

    Madagascar

    Sodreine is from Iabomora Village, about 56km from Vangaindrano in Madagascar. She gave birth to her first child at the age of 17, but her labor did not progress as planned. As a result, she developed obstetric fistula.

  • 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.

  • Esther

    Kenya

    Esther gave birth to her second child, Manuel, less than one year ago. She was encouraged to stay at home to deliver the baby, where she labored for three days with the help of a traditional birth attendant. Fortunately, she gave birth to a lively baby boy. However, after four days she noticed she was leaking urine and was unable to control it.

  • Celestine

    Kenya

    In obstructed labor with her sixth child, Celestine was rushed to her local health facility, only to be told she couldn’t have emergency surgery until her family made a down payment. Anxious and afraid, she waited for her husband to return with the money needed.

  • 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.

  • Selina

    Kenya

    Selina, a traditional birth attendant from remote West Pokot, Kenya, helped eight women from her village get life-changing fistula surgery. And she’s not done yet.

  • Jahanara

    Bangladesh

    Jahanara is just 23 years old. She was in labor for a full day at home before going to a hospital for an emergency C-section. By then, unfortunately, the damage had already been done.

  • Serafina

    Angola

    Serafina is 18 years old and from the Mukubal tribe in southwestern Angola. Married off at a young age and one of several wives, Serafina became pregnant when she was 14. She is very small-boned and was suffering from malnutrition when she came to the hospital, as food is often scarce in that part of the country. As a result of that and other factors, her delivery did not go well.

  • Annonciata

    Uganda

    Annonciata is a 56-year old mother and farmer from a small village in Budaka District in Uganda. She had previously given birth to six children without significant complications, but her seventh delivery did not go as planned.

  • 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.

  • Naresia Kenya

    Naresia

    Kenya

    Naresia is a Masai girl from a rural village in Kenya. Only five months ago, at the age of 14, Naresia gave birth to a baby. After a prolonged and difficult labor, she awoke to find her bed soaked with urine. The doctors informed her that the delivery process had left her with an obstetric fistula and she was now incontinent.

  • Solange

    Madagascar

    Solange spent the majority of her teenage years suffering from obstetric fistula.

  • Beatrice-Kenya

    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.

  • Umuhoza

    Rwanda

    Umuhoza arrived at the hospital with two massive fistulas and could barely walk. She was so traumatized by her labor that she could not remember any details. Today she is healed, but the road to recovery has been long and difficult.

  • Habiba-Niger

    Habiba

    Niger

    Habiba was married at 16 and pregnant with her first child soon thereafter. She began labor at home, as most women do in Niger. After enduring two days of painful, obstructed labor, she was sent in an ox-cart to the nearest hospital. By the time she received a Caesarian section, Habiba had been in labor for four days. Her baby did not survive.