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

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