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)
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    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.

  • Marivelo

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    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.”

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  • 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.

  • Kabuli, from Afghanistan (photo credit: CURE International)

    Kabuli

    Afghanistan

    Kabuli, from Afghanistan, is the third of four wives. When she developed a fistula after enduring obstructed labor without any emergency medical care, her husband forced her into isolation within his home. Living in shame, Kabuli thought she would be miserable for the rest of her life.

  • 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.

  • Nura

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    Madagascar

    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.

  • 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%

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    Kenya

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    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.

  • Annet Jane

    Annet Jane

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