Meet Yvonne

After suffering from obstetric fistula for 17 years, Yvonne boarded a bus that would take her to treatment. She was hopeful that on her return ride, she would be traveling in a dry dress for the first time in nearly two decades.

Yvonne's Story

Yvonne, 36, is a mother of four from a village in Zambia’s northern Luapula Province. She developed a fistula during her first pregnancy in the year 2000, after a prolonged labor that lasted for several days.

Yvonne’s labor began around midnight, and she was first taken to a clinic where she stayed for more than 24 hours without delivering. She then was taken to several other health centers and hospitals before finally arriving at a facility that had a doctor on duty.

After receiving an episiotomy procedure and being discharged from the hospital, Yvonne noticed that she was leaking urine. She returned to the hospital and was given medication. Yet, the medication did nothing to address her condition.

Living with fistula, Yvonne was ashamed of her smell and leakage. She stopped attending social gatherings and church rallies. Her first husband abandoned her. In 2006, she remarried a man who accepted her condition.

Yvonne continued to seek medical care, and a year later, she was advised to travel to the capital city of Lusaka for treatment—over 700 miles away from her home. Bus fare was far too expensive for her to afford the trip.

In March 2017, her father heard information about fistula repair surgeries on the local community radio station. Yvonne followed up immediately and was screened over the phone. Just a few weeks later, she was given an appointment for surgery at one of Fistula Foundation’s partner hospitals, Mansa General Hospital.

Yvonne traveled with twenty other women on a 10-hour bus ride to Mansa, where she finally received treatment in May 2017. Now that she has found relief, she is feeling happy and grateful.

Yvonne’s strong desire is for Fistula Foundation to continue helping women affected by obstetric fistula and needing treatment. She knows there are still more women suffering the way she did for nearly two decades.

About Zambia

  • Population: 15,510,711
  • Average Births per Woman: 5.67
  • Female Literacy: 56%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 60.5% (less than $1.25/day)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Zambia

News
Field Notes – Zambia: A Journey I’ll Never Forget

I can’t believe my three weeks in Zambia have come and gone. I’m writing this post from Chicago, waiting to return to my hometown of Tulsa and replaying everything in my mind. It’s bringing up a cadre of emotions. First, anger. It’s 2018 and this ailment shouldn’t be affecting anyone, let along the numbers it…

News
Social Media Roundup: Kristi Eaton, Writer in Residence

Meet Fistula Foundation’s first-ever Writer in Residence: Kristi Eaton! Kristi is a veteran journalist who is passionate about issues facing women and indigenous peoples, global poverty, and social entrepreneurship. She’s traveled the world reporting on these topics for The Associated Press, NBC News, The Washington Post, Ms. Magazine, and more. Kristi spent three weeks in Zambia on…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Romenisoa

    Madagascar

    Today, Romenisoa is happy because her free surgery was successful, and she is no longer leaking. She is happy and grateful that now she can do her farming in peace, free from fistula.

  • Christine

    Kenya

    Despite the efforts of one dedicated doctor who rode over an hour by motorbike late in the evening to help save the life of Christine and her baby, the baby did not survive. Her prolonged labor also resulted in obstetric fistula. Her husband abandoned her because he could not stand the smell of her incontinence, but her brothers defied cultural tradition and insisted she and her five children live with them. Then, a radio advertisement changed her life.

  • Halima, from Somalia (photo credit: WAHA)

    Halima

    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.”

  • Padma

    Nepal

    “I have a second life. I am so thankful to Dr. Shirley, and so thankful to my husband who stood by me.”

  • 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.

  • Betty

    Kenya

    Betty developed fistula during her first pregnancy, after laboring at home for seven days. Her baby did not survive. Today, she is healthy once again thanks to free surgery provided through the Action on Fistula program.

  • Towanda

    Zimbabwe

    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.

  • Vitasoa

    Madagascar

    Vitasoa is from the village of Manja, approximately 250km from the nearest city, Morondava. She developed fistula during the birth of her first child.

  • 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.

  • Lucie

    Madagascar

    With a tube down her nose to her stomach, Lucie was unable to talk. Her sister, Elysa, relayed this story on her behalf.

  • 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.

  • Mary

    Kenya

    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.

  • Mulamba

    Democratic Republic of Congo

    With her health restored, Mulamba is eager to return to her job as a schoolteacher.

  • Mayeye

    Democratic Republic of Congo

    In the year 2000, Mayeye was pregnant with her fourth child. Not long after giving birth, she felt intense pain in her abdomen and began leaking urine. She had developed obstetric fistula. Despite her injury, Mayeye continued working on her family’s small farm. She had no choice but to work through the pain, because her family was depending on her.

  • Rahila

    Guinea

    Rahila never had the opportunity to attend school; instead, she sells donuts in the market and farms for a living. She married at age 14 and became pregnant soon thereafter. Unfortunately, Rahila developed obstetric fistula during delivery and was left leaking urine and feces.

  • Bilkis

    Bangladesh

    Bilkis is just 20 years old. She developed an obstetric fistula during the delivery of her first baby. Bilkis delivered under the guidance of a traditional birth attendant who encouraged her to continue her labor at home despite the fact that she had already been in labor for two days.

  • Rahima

    Bangladesh

    When Rahima was just 13 she was married to save her family money on living costs. She soon became pregnant and suffered through prolonged, obstructed labor that left her incontinent. She lived with obstetric fistula for 12 years before finally finding help through our partners at HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh.

  • 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.