Meet Solange

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

Solange's Story

Solange was married and became pregnant at the age of 15. She received pre-natal care throughout her pregnancy, and when her labor began, Solange’s family called a traditional birth attendant instead of traveling to the nearest health center. However, it soon became clear that her labor was complicated.

Solange’s family then decided to make the 2-hour walk to the health center – Solange had to walk too, despite her excruciating labor pains. When she arrived, the nurse on duty could do little for her and referred her to another hospital, which required another 6 hours of travel by foot, boat, and taxi—not to mention a large financial cost for her family. Sadly, when she finally arrived at the hospital and completed her delivery, her baby was stillborn. She also realized that she was constantly leaking urine.

Grieving, Solange traveled back home, where she found a letter from her husband. Translated, it read: “Go away! Go back to your parents’ house!” Her emotional pain was unbearable—she had lost her baby and been cast out by her husband. Her community also ostracized her because of her smell.

Thankfully, her family continued to support her. After a year of living with obstetric fistula, Solange began to see another man, who loved and accepted her despite her condition. She became pregnant again, and was able to give birth to a healthy baby by caesarian section.

A friend referred Solange to Freedom from Fistula, one of Fistula Foundation’s partners in Tamatave, Madagascar. She traveled to Tamatave, and was finally able to receive treatment.

Now 20 years old, Solange is finally dry. After undergoing fistula repair surgery, her self-confidence has returned. Now that her fistula is gone, Solange has found new joy and hopes to live life to the fullest!

About Madagascar

  • Population: 24,430,325
  • Average Births per Woman: 4.12
  • Female Literacy: 62.6%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 75.3% (less than $1.25/day)
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We’re Making a Difference in Madagascar

Your Donations at Work – Madagascar

Obstetric fistula happens most frequently in rural areas, where emergency medical care is not easily accessible. A woman’s risk of developing fistula is also exacerbated by cultural misunderstanding about doctors and surgery. Madagascar faces both of these challenges: its infrastructure is poor, which can make travel to the hospital complicated and dangerous. Also, there is…

Icon: How You Changed These Women’s Lives

Fistula Foundation’s work in Madagascar wouldn’t be the same without the amazing support of our partner, Icon. Read their Giveback recap blog post below, and the stories of women at SALFA, our partner in Madagascar: How You Changed These Women’s Lives 12/19/17 written by Natalie Pattillo How You Changed These Women’s Lives As a women-led…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Djinto

    Democratic Republic of Congo

    Djinto tried to do everything right. She attended regular prenatal sessions to prepare for the birth of her child. Her pregnancy progressed normally, though she had been warned that the child she carried was too large for Djinto’s young 17 year old body to handle.

  • Fistula Foundation - Nazneen



    Nazneen is a 47 year old mother of six who resides in the Balochistan region of Pakistan. She had been living with fistula for 14 years after experiencing a prolonged labor while giving birth to her sixth child.

  • Sujata


    Sujata lives in Bajura, a very poor and remote mountain district in western Nepal. She lives with her husband, whom she married when she was 16 years old, and his family in a small house shared by 12 people. One year after their wedding, Sujata was looking forward to the birth of her first child. There was no health facility nearby, so when Sujata’s labor entered its eighth day, the family called on the local birth attendant.

  • Tahinomenjanahary


    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.

  • Fatma


    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.

  • Josephine-Congo


    Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Josephine is from the northwestern corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 34 years old, she is the mother of two healthy boys, ages 11 and 9, the only surviving children from her four pregnancies.

  • Jane


    Conducting patient outreach in rural western Kenya, Jane faces a number of challenges—including threats to her life—as she travels in search of women suffering with fistula. But knowing there are many women who are enjoying life once again thanks to her efforts gives great meaning to her work.

  • Domitila



    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.

  • Mary


    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.

  • Blandine


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

  • Queen


    “When my husband saw the many health issues I had, he despised me, he called me names and always told me in the face that I was more than crippled.” She was left on her own and most of the time starving. She reached at a point that she could not withstand the mistreatment and she went back to her parents. After a few years her parents died. “I walk like a crippled woman, there is nothing that I own on this earth, I don’t have a husband, I don’t have a baby. My life is so empty.” She has said that her deepest desire has been to die a clean woman. But at Gynocare, where she received fistula surgery through the Action on Fistula program, she is happy. Here, she feels loved and valued. She knows she has a family at Gynocare.

  • Zeinabou


    Zeinabou comes from a village 100 miles north of Danja, Niger. She was married and became pregnant while still in her teens. As is the local custom, Zeinabou planned to deliver her baby at home because maternity services are not easily accessible.

  • Lida


    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.

  • Ndatsaha


    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.

  • Justine


    Justine is 37 years old and lives in Bumasiki , a small village in Bugiri District in Uganda. When her labor pains began, she prepared to go to the hospital but didn’t have enough money to get there. She arrived 20 hours later after gathering sufficient funds from friends and neighbors; but by then, she had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Felana


    At the tender age of 15, Felana became pregnant. She suffered a prolonged obstructed labor, and by the time her stillborn baby was delivered, she had developed obstetric fistula.

  • Alitash


    Alitash is 56 years old and lives in a small village about 50 kilometers east of Aira, a large town in western Ethiopia. She has given birth three times – her first two children died as teenagers, and the third was stillborn.

  • Fistula Foundation - Lia



    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.