maryama fistula foundation

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 (run by Worldwide Fistula Fund) 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)
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We’re Making a Difference in Niger

dr itengre

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…


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 - Kamala



    Kamala is a 47 year old mother of four and from a very remote area of western Nepal known as Dailekh. She lived with fistula for eight years, but thankfully is one of few patients who had the support of her husband the entire time.
  • Kabuli, from Afghanistan (photo credit: CURE International)



    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.
  • Fistula Foundation - Hellen Aoko



    Margaret is 36 years old and from a very remote village in southwestern Kenya. In this area, child marriage and polygamy are very common. At 16 years old, Margaret’s parents arranged for her to become the third wife of a man more than three times her age. She tried to resist, but eventually gave in to the marriage due to pressure from her family and community.
  • pushpa



    Pushpa is approximately 50 years old and from a remote village in western Nepal. When she arrived at Kathmandu Model Hospital, she was leaking urine and feces uncontrollably and was severely depressed.
  • Fistula Foundation - Binta



    Binta is 35 years old and from Fidi, a landlocked village in northwestern Guinea. At 14 years old she was forced to marry a much older man, and soon became pregnant. After five days of painful labor, she lost her baby. A few days later, she realized that she was not able to control her urine. The difficult labor had left her with an obstetric fistula.
  • Flavia



    Flavia is a shy 17 year old girl who was married when she was just 15. Soon after, she became pregnant. Her labor began at home, but the family was unprepared when the labor became obstructed. Not knowing what to do, they finally took her to a hospital.
  • Halima



    Originally from Somalia and now living in Kenya, in the world’s largest refugee camp, Halima has been through a hell few can imagine. But after traveling over 1,000 miles seeking fistula treatment, she is finally healed.
  • One.Womans.Story.Debora



    Debora lives in a tiny Angolan village quite far from any emergency medical services. In 2008, she was in labor with her fourth child for nearly a week before her uncle finally brought her to a hospital.
  • Grace



    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.
  • Nathi-Uganda



    Nathi* lives in Uganda. She was married at the age of 13 and two years later was pregnant with her first child. After enduring a difficult labor, Nathi lost her baby and was left with obstetric fistula, incontinent and leaking wastes. Her husband abandoned her and soon after, her family did, too. At 15, she was alone and scared.
  • Evelyne Lonyaigakal, 16



    Esther gave birth to her second child, Manuel, less than one year ago. She was encouraged to stay at home to deliver the baby, where she labored for three days with the help of a traditional birth attendant. Fortunately, she gave birth to a lively baby boy. However, after four days she noticed she was leaking urine and was unable to control it.
  • Ana-Angola



    Today, Ana is 18 years old, with an enthusiastic outlook and bubbly smile. That wasn’t always the case. Ana was just shy of 16 years old when she became pregnant. Everything went well, until it was time to deliver. Her labor was excruciating, and lasted for days.
  • Mildred



    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.
  • Harka Maya_patient photo_PHECT-Nepal

    Harka Maya


    A mother of two, Harka Maya lives in Sindhuli, Nepal, roughly 80 miles (129 km) from Kathmandu. She developed a fistula last summer, while in labor with her third child. Being from a poor farming family, it was customary for her to deliver at home.
  • Brenda



    Thanks to a newly opened fistula hospital close to her home in Kisii, Kenya, 17-year-old Brenda was able to get treatment after six months. Now that she is healed, she has dreams of returning to school to become a nurse.
  • DJINTO EKULA_lo-res


    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.
  • 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.

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