Ethiopia: Woman Saved from 24 years of fistula
This month our country of focus is Ethiopia, where World Vision’s Strong Women, Strong World initiative is working to provide change as a response to the needs of women and girls living in poverty in developing nations. The following story was contributed by Aklilu Kassaye, World Vision Ethiopia.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that around two million women worldwide live with fistula problems. Every year, 100,000 women across the developing world find their lives destroyed by fistulas. In Ethiopia, around 8,000 women each year suffer from this problem. (UNFPA)
Thirty-nine-year-old Belaynesh Jigso had suffered a fistula infection for the last 24 years. Married at the age of 12, Belaynesh gave birth to her first-born child a year later.
“Giving birth was not as simple as I am telling you now. I had to go through two days of painful and obstructed labor to deliver my first-born child at home with the help of untrained traditional birth attendants,” she recalls.
Since then she has suffered a fistula and developed urine incontinence. Visiting health centers at that time was not exercised for lack of awareness, financial constraints and inaccessibility of medication near the village. Instead, going to the traditional healers was the option of the time. “I visited several traditional healers, but none of them gave me a bit of relief for my pain,” she recalls.
Her body used to stench badly as she wasn’t able to control her urine. She was socially stigmatized and discriminated against. Nobody invited her to any social festivals such as weddings, parties, or group work. She says, “I always used to feel homesickness.”
When she went out for her shopping, people used to point their fingers at her saying ‘look at that – stinky woman is coming’. “These words were piercing me like a spear and breaking my fragile heart. Even my husband disregarded me because of the offensive words he was listening to from the community,” she sorrowfully recalls. Her husband admits, “I was ashamed of listening about her bad news. There was a time when I intended to commit suicide rather than hearing what people are speaking against my wife.” Her 13-year-old daughter Frenesh, also says, “My school friends used to scoff at me saying that I was a daughter of a sticky mother. I was down at my friend’s profane words.”
Then, World Vision took her to Addis Ababa to the Fistula Hospital for medical treatment covering her food, bed and transportation expenses. Within a few months, she recovered her health and returned home. She says, “Through World Vision Ethiopia’s support, all my worries with all its complicated disgrace and messes have gone away, promising not to return forever. World Vision has reclaimed my health that I was denied for the last 24 years. Now I am able to carry out any activities that any healthy woman can do and participate in social events. To my surprise,” she delightedly says, “ashamed of their bad deeds, even the ones who were once out casting me have begun asking me for a pardon.”
Her redemption has made her diligently publicize the work of World Vision for others with the same problem. She is assessing women with fistula cases in her district and reporting to World Vision to reach them as they did to her. Within her area, World Vision has addressed 55 obstetric complications of which 35 are fistulas and the rest are uterus prolapse cases, taking them to Addis Ababa to the fistula hospital, covering all their expenses.