Meet Towanda

Towanda is 20 years old and from a rural area just outside of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. Four years ago at the age of 16, she became pregnant. When the time came to deliver, there were a lot of complications.

Towanda's Story

Towanda ended up losing her baby. As if that was not enough, she also began leaking urine and feces through her vagina. Towanda assumed this was a normal occurrence after giving birth and it would soon go away – but it didn’t.

“I tried to seek medical attention and was told that it was obstetric fistula and because of the high costs of corrective surgery, which my family couldn’t afford, I never got any help,” Towanda explained. Her symptoms were so severe, painful and humiliating that she had to stop going to school. It wasn’t just school which she avoided, but all public places in general, for fear of being ridiculed.

Towanda lived with fistula for nearly four years before being put in touch with our partner organization in Zimbabwe, WAHA International. They referred her to Harare for treatment where she received a free (and successful!) repair surgery. Following her surgery, Towanda remarked with a smile, “I am so relieved and grateful that my life is now back to normal as I had lost hope for re-living my life.”

About Zimbabwe

  • Population: 14,149,648
  • Average Births per Woman: 3.56
  • Female Literacy: 80.1%
  • Population Living in Poverty: % (less than $1.25/day)
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We’re Making a Difference in Zimbabwe

Your Donations at Work - Zimbabwe

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Your Donations at Work: Zimbabwe

Following a pilot project in 2013, we were able to establish routine fistula care services in Zimbabwe in conjunction with our long-term partner, Women and Health Alliance International (WAHA). Over the last year, 198 women received free, life-transforming repair surgeries at Parirenyatwa Hospital and Harare Central Hospital thanks to your support. These women also received…

Voice of America

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US-Based Fistula Foundation to Launch Zimbabwe Pilot Program

An interview with Fistula Foundation CEO Kate Grant was featured on Voice of America Zimbabwe this week. The interview focuses on the physical and social consequences of obstetric fistula and a pilot program in Zimbabwe to help women suffering from fistula get the treatment they need.   US-Based Fistula Foundation to Launch Zimbabwe Pilot Program…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • 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.

  • Awetu

    Tanzania

    After Awetu developed a fistula following a difficult labor and delivery, her husband left her and married another. She was heartbroken.

  • Rasoanirina

    Madagascar

    Rasoanirina was 18 when she went into labor with her first child. But her labor did not go as planned: it lasted for three excruciating days before the baby was delivered stillborn, via C-section on July 2, 2015. Her complicated labor left her with more than the pain of losing a child; it also left her with obstetric fistula.

  • Marivelo

    Madagascar

    In May, 2013, Marivelo went in to labor with her first child. Her labor lasted for four days. The child did not survive, and Marivelo was left incontinent of urine. She had developed an obstetric fistula as a result of the prolonged, unrelieved labor.

  • Nura

    Chad

    Nura comes from Lai, a region in the south of Chad where she married at age 17. She first became pregnant at 20 and tried to give birth at home, aided only by her family. After 4 days of complicated labor, she was finally taken to the maternity center in Guidari, a nearby village.

  • Reeta

    Nepal

    Reeta arrived at International Nepal Foundation's fistula clinic with her younger son, Tej. They live in Kanchenpur, a 9 hour journey by bus from Surkhet. Reeta developed an obstetric fistula after her youngest son’s birth 33 years ago. She had delivered two sons previously at home without difficulty, but the third labor was more complicated.

  • Jacklyn

    Kenya

    Jacklyn is just 29 years old, but has faced enough heartbreak to last a lifetime. Born and raised in Kisii County in western Kenya, Jacklyn was raised by her older sister because their parents abandoned them when she was a small child. She was never able to go to school because she had to do odd jobs along with her older sister in order to have enough food to eat at the end of the day.

  • Vinesy

    Madagascar

    Vinesy had surgery in April 2013 for appendicitis, but something went wrong and she became incontinent as a result. She had developed an iatrogenic fistula as a result of the procedure and had begun to leak urine uncontrollably.

  • Kaudha

    Uganda

    Kaudha is from eastern Uganda. At age 27, she developed a fistula after spending hours in labor with her third child. Unfortunately, the baby did not survive, and Kaudha’s condition left her feeling isolated from friends and loved ones. But in fall 2015, her story—and her outlook—changed dramatically.

  • Jahanara

    Bangladesh

    Jahanara is just 23 years old. She was in labor for a full day at home before going to a hospital for an emergency C-section. By then, unfortunately, the damage had already been done.

  • Habiba-Niger

    Habiba

    Niger

    Habiba was married at 16 and pregnant with her first child soon thereafter. She began labor at home, as most women do in Niger. After enduring two days of painful, obstructed labor, she was sent in an ox-cart to the nearest hospital. By the time she received a Caesarian section, Habiba had been in labor for four days. Her baby did not survive.

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    Tanzania

    Salha had a complicated and prolonged labor before she was finally brought to a hospital in the Mtwara region of Tanzania. There she received an emergency C-section section, but it was too late. Tragically, Salha’s baby had already died. A few days later, Salha realized she was leaking urine.

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    Liberia

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  • 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.

  • Annet Jane

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    Uganda

    Pregnant at 14, Annet Jane suffered with a fistula for 23 years before receiving treatment. Now, she has hope for the future.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Grace

    Kenya

    Grace got married in 1994, and explained that she immediately felt a burden upon herself to give birth to as many children as possible as quickly as possible in order to earn respect and stability in her marriage. This, she said, is the status quo in the rural African context.