Meet Zeinabou

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.

Zeinabou's Story

And since this was her first delivery, custom also dictated that she leave her husband and move back with her parents in order to be under her mother’s care. When the time finally came to deliver, her labor was obstructed — the baby would not fit through her pelvis and she remained in labor for days.

Zeinabou’s family finally took her to a hospital where she underwent an emergency Cesarean section. The operation probably saved her life, but the child, her first, was stillborn. Worse still, several days after her surgery, Zeinabou began leaking urine uncontrollably. She had developed an obstetric fistula.

Zeinabou was continually wet from the constant drip of urine. Her husband forced her to move back with her parents. Her mother tried to fix her problem with traditional medicinal treatments but, of course, these remedies did not work. At only 20 years old, Zeinabou lived in misery. She had given up hope and feared she would live isolated from family and friends forever, with no opportunity to work and support herself.

Then, one day, she heard a story on the local radio station announcing the opening of a fistula center. Filled with renewed hope, Zeinabou and her mother made the long trip south to Danja. The surgeons at Danja Fistula Center were able to successfully repair her fistula and give Zeinabou her life back. She returned home, finally able to resume the life she had known before.

About Niger

  • Population: 17,466,172
  • Average Births per Woman: 6.89
  • Female Literacy: 15.1%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 43.6% (less than $1.25/day)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Niger

News
Surgeon Spotlight: Itengré Ouédraogo

Born in Burkina Faso and educated in Cuba, Dr. Itengré Ouédraogo trained as a general surgeon before returning to West Africa. It was while working with a United Nations health initiative in rural Gouré, Niger, that he had his first direct contact with fistula patients. Being from sub-Saharan Africa, he was familiar with the kinds…

News
CEO Kate Grant in The New York Times

CEO Kate Grant publishes a letter to the editor in The New York Times: Nicholas D. Kristof’s July 14 column features a fistula hospital in Niger financed by outside donors. The Fistula Foundation funds this hospital and others in 19 countries in Asia and Africa. The overriding conclusion to our work is that “one size…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • 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.

  • Mary A.

    Kenya

    Mary waited her whole life to have a child. At the age of 47 she finally became pregnant. But her labor was difficult, and her child did not survive. She developed fistula as a result. She was ostracized by her family and shunned by the entire community, until finally, at the age of 73, she finally accessed a free surgery that would change the rest of her life, and remind her what it felt like to feel "human" again.

  • Mulamba

    Democratic Republic of Congo

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

  • Hadija

    Guinea

    By age 27, Hadija had already given birth to four children. Sadly, only two of her children survived. Making things worse, her last pregnancy left Hadija with an obstetric fistula.

  • Alitash

    Ethiopia

    Alitash is 56 years old and lives in a small village about 50 kilometers east of Aira, a large town in western Ethiopia. She has given birth three times – her first two children died as teenagers, and the third was stillborn.

  • Soazara

    Madagascar

    Soazara's husband abandoned her, because he could not stand her smell. Life became almost unbearable for her.

  • Margaret and Rose

    Kenya

    At the age of 14, Margaret was raped while fetching water at the local stream. She became pregnant as a result, and endured a difficult labor, which resulted in a stillborn baby and an obstetric fistula. An orphan, Margaret had nowhere to go, and nobody to help her through this terrible tragedy – except her sister, Rose.

  • Momakely

    Madagascar

    When it came time to deliver her baby, Momakely made her way to a health facility a great distance away from her home. But her labor was prolonged and difficult, and her baby did not survive. Momakely was left with an obstetric fistula for five years, until she learned about free fistula services offered by SALFA.

  • Abiar

    Kenya

    In her 23 years, Abiar has seen and experienced more sadness than most do in a lifetime. Losing her entire family to civil war in South Sudan in 2011, she married as a way to protect her own life. But soon the worst happened: with no access to health care, food or shelter, she became pregnant.

  • Alphonsia

    Tanzania

    Alphonsia’s heart-wrenching story began 27 years ago after her labor failed to progress properly.

  • Sujata

    Nepal

    Sujata lives in Bajura, a very poor and remote mountain district in western Nepal. She lives with her husband, whom she married when she was 16 years old, and his family in a small house shared by 12 people. One year after their wedding, Sujata was looking forward to the birth of her first child. There was no health facility nearby, so when Sujata’s labor entered its eighth day, the family called on the local birth attendant.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Annonciata

    Uganda

    Annonciata is a 56-year old mother and farmer from a small village in Budaka District in Uganda. She had previously given birth to six children without significant complications, but her seventh delivery did not go as planned.

  • Gul-Afghanistan

    Gul

    Afghanistan

    Gul lives in Afghanistan. At 13 years old, her father arranged for her to marry an older man who had another wife, and after one year of marriage, Gul became pregnant. When she went into labor, it lasted for two days. There were no clinics or doctors where she lived and Gul's husband became worried. He took her to her father's house, where Gul's father killed a sheep and placed the sheepskin on her as part of a traditional treatment used in her area. After three days of wearing the sheepskin, Gul delivered a stillborn baby.

  • 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.

  • Fistula Foundation - Lia

    Lia

    Angola

    Lia arrived at CEML with great misgivings - she had sought help at many places for her fistula but was given no hope. A friend told her that she might find help at CEML and urged her to go, which she eventually did. She told staff there that she sat on some rocks nearby, cried and repeated “God help me” over and over before coming through the doors.

  • Mwajuma

    Kenya

    Mwajuma developed a fistula while in labor with her seventh child. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before she met Mariam, who helped her get free treatment through our Action on Fistula program in Kenya. With her health restored, Mwajuma now has plans to start a new business so she can help support her family.