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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

  • Dembe

    Uganda

    Dembe did everything right during her pregnancy—she kept up all of her prenatal doctor’s appointments, and made sure that both she and her baby stayed healthy. When her labor began, Dembe walked the 10 kilometers from her home to the nearest heath center. She expected a normal delivery, but tragically, this would not come to pass—Dembe experienced a wrenching, prolonged labor, and her child did not survive.

  • 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.

  • Evelyn

    Kenya

    “It was so painful to leave the hospital with the few clothes I had bought for my baby. It was painful to walk out of the gates empty handed [without a baby] and to worsen the matter, with the leaking of urine."

  • 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.

  • Faith C.

    Kenya

    A terrifying rape resulted in pregnancy and an obstetric fistula for Faith. But today she is healed and looking forward to a future where she can use her experience to help other women in similar positions.

  • Fistula Foundation - Elizabeth Atieno

    Sylvia

    Kenya

    Pregnant at the age of 13, Sylvia labored for two days before delivering a stillborn baby. She developed obstetric fistula, which led to two decades of shame and sadness. Then one day, she heard a radio announcement that would change her life forever.

  • Merin’y

    Madagascar

    Merin'y is the mother of three healthy children, but when the time came to deliver her fourth child, things did not go as they had before. Her labor was long and intense, and resulted in an obstetric fistula.

  • Halima, from Somalia (photo credit: WAHA)

    Halima

    Somalia

    Halima is yet another brave fistula survivor from Somalia. “When I went to labour, the pain got stronger and stronger and lasted on and on. Something was not right. It took two days to convince my husband to bring me to a health facility. The doctors that saw me decided to immediately carry out a cesarean section. But they had no anesthesia. The pain was unbearable, and when I screamed they started beating me. My baby could not be saved and I developed what I later learned was an obstetric fistula. My husband left me because he could not stand the smell caused by my injury.”

  • Lida

    Afghanistan

    Lida gave birth to her first and only child 12 years ago. Sadly, the baby died shortly after it was born. Not only that, but Lida developed a fistula during the difficult delivery and started leaking urine constantly from that day.

  • Rasoanirina

    Madagascar

    Extremely shy, and embarrassed by her condition, Rasoanirina stopped going to school.

  • 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.

  • Fistula Foundation - Maria

    Maria

    Zimbabwe

    Maria is 42 years old. She is HIV-positive and currently on antiretroviral therapy. Maria doesn’t have a permanent place to live – she cannot work because of her incontinence, and has no real income to live on. She survives through the ongoing support of her relatives and friends.

  • 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.

  • Mulamba

    Democratic Republic of Congo

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

  • 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.

  • Maho

    Madagascar

    At 20 years old, Maho is mother to two healthy children. In June 2016, when giving birth to her third child, her labor went quite differently. She endured an excruciating labor that lasted three days and resulted in a C-section. Her child did not survive, and Maho had begun to leak urine.

  • Bernard

    Kenya

    Bernard Owino is one of six county mobilizers with Disciples of Mercy (DOM), an organization that runs a fistula outreach program in Kisumu. Before joining DOM, he worked with orphans and other vulnerable populations in the region for four years as a social worker.