Tag Archives: fistula

Why One Woman Traveled from Algeria to Niger for Fistula Surgery

We are happy to publish the latest news from our partner Worldwide Fistula Fund. They do amazing work for women with obstetric fistulas. Please make a donation to help them continue the work they do.


From the Worldwide Fistula Fund:

Summer has been busy at the Danja Fistula Center. In July, a team of six people flew to Niger to assist the staff with patient care at the hospital. Over the course of the month, 40 surgeries were performed on women suffering from obstetric fistula. These women came to Danja hopeful that our team of medical experts would have the ability to repair their fistula and help them begin a new chapter to their life. Nearly everyone has returned to their village optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead. One of those women is Habibati. We wanted to share her story with you.

Habibati immediately stood out to us as she did not look like most of our patients. Her skin was much fairer and softer and her hair was longer and braided. Unlike many of the women who traveled from nearby villages and spoke Hausa, Habibati is Algerian.

Habibati had a pre-arranged marriage at 13 and became pregnant at 14. For three days she labored in her village. Eventually the baby passed and was stillborn. Immediately she started leaking urine and her parents arranged for her to have surgery in Algeria. She had three surgeries there and none were successful. While in Algeria, she heard a news report from a North Africa BBC affiliate about a new fistula hospital in Niger and traveled to Danja in hopes of receiving another surgery.

Habibati’s relationship with her husband is unlike that of many of the patients who come through our door. Her husband came to Danja with her and stayed at a place close to the hospital so he could visit her daily. While so many women with fistula are abandoned by their husbands, it was heart-warming to see Habibati’s husband treat her with such care.

Communicating with Habibati required an extensive game of medical telephone and we were fortunate she also arrived with a friend who served as a personal translator. Our doctor spoke in English to our translator, who spoke in Hausa to one of our nurse’s aides. The nurse’s aide translated Hausa to Fulani to Habibati’s friend, and Habibati’s friend translated Fulani into Arabic for Habibati. Each response was translated back, from Arabic to Fulani to Hausa and then English. While time-consuming, the system worked and we were able to communicate with Habibati and prepare her for surgery.

It took Habibati some time to warm up to the surroundings in Danja because of the language barrier, but once the nurses learned to say hello in Arabic she quickly perked up. She received surgery and is recovering in the patient village. We all hope that this fourth surgery will be her last.

Please stay tuned to our blog for more news out of Danja, stories of the women we’ve served and updates on our progress.

To continue supporting the Danja Fistula Center — and help bring healing and medical care to thousands of women living with the agony of obstetric fistula — please make a tax-deductible one-time or recurring gift today. We thank you for your incredible generosity.

Photos: Worldwide Fistula Fund

[Guest Post] Sarah Omega: A Fistula Survivor

Written By Elizabeth Ralston, The Inspired Philanthropist

The Setting: One by One’s sixth annual fundraiser.

The lights dimmed, the audience soon hushed, and the speaker, a young woman from Kenya, came diffidently to the podium.

Sarah Omega Photo by Louise Lakier 2011

“My name is Sarah Omega, and I am a fistula survivor.”

The details of her life came out as she told her story in a measured, steady fashion. Sarah was raped and impregnated at age 19 by a religious leader from her community. When it came time to give birth, she labored for many hours before being taken to a hospital. Unfortunately, she ended up having a stillborn baby.

Because Sarah had labored for so long, she was left with a fistula, a hole between the vagina and anus, which causes leaking of urine and sometimes feces. What she had really needed was a Cesarean section, which is unavailable to so many women in developing countries.

“I had to live with fistula for twelve years.”

During those twelve years, she struggled with feelings of rage and shame at her plight. At one point, she ended up in a psychiatric ward, severely depressed, for several weeks. Ironically, being in that place saved her.

Staff at the ward told her there was a doctor who repaired fistulas and a month later, she had her fistula repaired.

“I realized I had something to offer back to the society in my capacity as a fistula survivor.”

After Sarah told the amazing and moving story of Sylvia, a Kenyan woman who had lived with fistula for 51 years, there weren’t very many dry eyes in the audience. Check out this seven-minute movie, “We Will Come to You”, about Sarah’s journey to find Sylvia in a remote village to bring her to the hospital for fistula repair surgery. This lovely film gave me goosebumps, especially the part when Sarah says Sylvia had been “expecting” her.

Currently, Sarah is One by One’s Outreach Manager in Kenya, training regional representatives to do outreach in their communities, refer women with fistula for treatment, and provide emotional support for these women when they come home after their surgery.

They’ve had amazing success in the short time since the program began in September 2011:

30 Regional Representatives were trained and have already educated 23,000 Kenyans in just six weeks.

Over 100 women with fistula have been found. You can learn more about Sarah’s story in the following video. Also be sure to learn more about fistula from our partner, Worldwide Fistula Fund.

The Worldwide Fistula Fund Opens Fistula Center in Niger

Our newest partner, the Worldwide Fistula Fund, celebrated the opening of the Danja Fistula Center, its first freestanding fistula center last Saturday, February 11, 2012. A state-of-the-art fistula hospital in Niger, the Danja Fistula Center will provide free obstetric fistula surgeries, prevention programming and aftercare for women afflicted by this condition.

Founded in 1995, the Worldwide Fistula Fund is a not-for-profit public charity that provides medical treatment for women suffering from obstetric fistula in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The goal of the Worldwide Fistula Fund was to always create a freestanding fistula center and use it as a model center that can be replicated,” said Bree Neely, Director of Development for the Worldwide Fistula Fund. “If you can do it in a desolate area you have figured out the challenges and then can move on to create more hospitals in more populated areas.”

With the highest rate of maternal mortality Niger is in desperate need of services that will keep mothers and their newborns alive. “We will be doing prevention outreach within a 50 kilometer catch net,” Neely mentioned.  “We will spread the message to women that if the sun rises two times during their labor then they need to go to the hospital. We will be working on this from a prevention angle.”

The Danja Fistula Center will be open year round save for April through May, the hot season. All services are free for the women. In the first year there will be 400 fistula operations and then will gradually ramp up to 1100 surgeries annually.

In addition to performing fistula operations, the Worldwide Fistula Fund will also create curriculum for a social reintegration program. The program will teach women how to read and will also provide micro-financing opportunities.

“Most women who have fistulas have been left by their families,” said Neely. “They are full of shame, embarrassments and have no resources. It’s really our responsibility to not just sew up their fistula, but there is a broader responsibility to see if they are OK and can build a life for themselves.”

New Partner Announcement – Worldwide Fistula Fund

I am happy to announce our newest partner – Worldwide Fistula Fund. Founded in 1995, the Worldwide Fistula Fund (WFF) is a not-for-profit public charity that provides medical treatment for women suffering from obstetric fistula in sub-Saharan Africa. In February 2012, the WFF opened the Danja Fistula Center, a state-of-the-art fistula hospital in Niger to provide free obstetric fistula surgeries, prevention programming and aftercare for women afflicted by this condition.

Like Worldwide Fistula Fund on Facebook: www.facebook.com/worldwidefistulafund

Follow Worldwide Fistula Fund on Twitter: twitter.com/#!/FistulaFund