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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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…

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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

  • Ana-Angola

    Ana

    Angola

    Today, Ana is 18 years old, with an enthusiastic outlook and bubbly smile. That wasn’t always the case. Ana was just shy of 16 years old when she became pregnant. Everything went well, until it was time to deliver. Her labor was excruciating, and lasted for days.

  • Seline

    Kenya

    Seline lives in a small village in the remote region of West Pokot, Kenya. She did not go to school and married young, as is tradition in this pastoralist community. She went into labor with her fourth child about three years ago, preferring to give birth at home with a traditional birth attendant from her village. Only 18% of women give birth in a health center in this region of Kenya, far below the national average of 44%

  • 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.

  • Sokhina

    Bangladesh

    Sokhina endured four days of excruciating labor before delivering a stillborn baby. But her nightmare was just beginning: soon after she began to leak urine and learned that she had an obstetric fistula. She suffered with this injury for eight years before learning that help was available.

  • Zeinabou

    Niger

    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.

  • 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.

  • Alradya-Sudan

    Alradya

    Sudan

    Alradya is 17 years old and lives in northern Sudan. When she was 15, she was married to her cousin, a farmer. She became pregnant and when she went into labor, had only her mother at her side. She endured excruciating labor for two days, but there was still no sign of the baby, which she could no longer feel moving. A traditional birth attendant was summoned to examine Alradya, who ordered that she be sent to the nearest hospital.

  • Zatindravelo

    Madagascar

    When it came time to deliver her baby, Zatindravelo dutifully made her way to a medical facility to deliver, but her labor took a turn for the worse when there were no doctors or nurses present to assist her when she needed them most. She labored for 17 hours with her first child. The child did not survive. As a result of her prolonged, unrelieved labor, she had developed 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Blandine

    Madagascar

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

  • 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.

  • Mildred

    Kenya

    Mildred developed fistula after prolonged, obstructed labor with her second child. She endured two difficult months of life with fistula before receiving treatment through our Action on Fistula program.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Rose

    Madagascar

    Rose developed obstetric fistula at the age of 16, during her first delivery. Life became very difficult for her, in a number of ways. She is not married, and her father is dead. Survival became a challenge.