Fistula Foundation - Elizabeth Atieno

Meet Sylvia

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.

Sylvia's Story

Sylvia is from a place called Seme, in Siaya County in Kenya. She is 34 years old and single. Sylvia dropped out of school when she realized she was pregnant at the young age of 13. In fact, she didn’t even know she was pregnant until her mother began to notice her physical changes. She carried her pregnancy to full term without any difficulty.

One evening she started experiencing labor pains, but remained hopeful that things were fine and that her experience was normal. Two days passed and her labor had not progressed. At this point her family decided to take her to the hospital, where she delivered a stillborn child. Three days later, she realized that she was unable to hold her urine. Nurses assured her that the problem would heal on its own with time.

“Days, weeks, moths and eventually years went by without any slightest sign that things were to get back to normal again,” Sylvia shared. “I felt confused. At the age of 13, my dreams of going back to school were shattered completely, I felt left in darkness about my condition because I didn’t know what was happening, I could no longer go out to socialize, I became the talk of our village, I tried getting married but it never worked because immediately they learned about my condition. Then they left, and I never saw them again.”

She went into the city to work as house girl, but when her employer learned of her condition, she threw her out of her house with fear that she would infect her children with the disease. She later found a man who took her in as a wife, but after two miscarriages, he threw her out on the streets.

“I had lost hope until I heard an announcement over the radio about fistula treatment,” she said. Sylvia recalls writing the number down during the announcement and calling immediately after. Out of her 34 years on this planet, she had spent more than two decades suffering because of her obstetric fistula. It was hard for her to believe that her nightmare would soon be over.

Sylvia was treated at Gynocare and today is full of hope. She dreams of working hard, to one day buy a piece of land, because she is passionate about farming. And one day, we believe she will.

About Kenya

  • Population: 45,010,056
  • Average Births per Woman: 3.54
  • Female Literacy: 84.2%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 43.4% (less than $1.25/day)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Kenya

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Daily Nation: An estimated 3,000 obstetric fistula cases are reported annually, but only a third receive treatment due to lack of specialists

Fistula Foundation Senior Program Director Lindsey Pollaczek and Outreach Manager Habiba Corodhia Mohamed are interviewed for a story about the success of our Action on Fistula program in Kenya, which combines extensive community outreach with surgeon training to find and treat more women suffering from fistula. Lack of specialists hinders treatment of fistula cases An estimated…

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Reuters: As surgeries triple, Kenya aims to end shame of fistula

Reuters reports on Kenya’s aim to end the shame of obstetric fistula nationwide, tripling treatment surgeries and increasing capacity through opening treatment centers and training surgeons. Read the full article at the link below: As surgeries triple, Kenya aims to end shame of fistula NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Kenya’s hopes of ending incontinence caused…

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