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Meet Jacqueline from Zambia

During her first pregnancy in 2008, Jacqueline was in labor for a day before she was taken to Muyombe Clinic and then on to Isoka District Hospital. Her baby was removed using forceps and the baby was still born. Then she began to leak feces and urine.

At a recent community meeting, Jacqueline Kanyika danced just like the other villagers. Ten years ago, this wouldn’t have been possible because she had obstetric fistula. 

“In terms of sickness, I was OK,” the 26-year-old said. “The hardest part was moving around with urine and drying the cloths.” 

During her first pregnancy in 2008, she was in labor for a day before she was taken to Muyombe Clinic and then on to Isoka District Hospital. Her baby was removed using forceps and the baby was still born. While she was in Isoka, she noticed that feces and urine were leaking out of her. She stayed at Isoka for a month and hoped she would get better, but nothing ever improved. It turns out she had both vagina fistula and rectovaginal fistula. 

She eventually returned to her village of Chanama in Mafinga District. When she returned, she heard they treat such injuries in Malawi, which is just across the border. She headed to Muzuzu where her rectovaginal fistula was treated, but her vaginal fistula remained. 

She returned to her village and tried a traditional healer, but the problem remained. She would go through numerous pads each day. Finally, she heard through the community that there was someone at Chilonga Mission Hospital who could treat the second fistula. Jacqueline met with a Community Health Volunteer from Fistula Foundation, and in February of 2018, an appointment was made.

Receiving treatment at Chilonga Mission Hospital, Jacqueline said she was very excited. 

Though her husband stayed with her throughout the 10 years, he used to speak about the fistula often, making Jacqueline uneasy. Unlike some other women who experience the condition, Jacqueline remained closely bonded to her friends, saying it was necessary to continue to get through each day. 

“This is a big problem,” she said. “I couldn’t handle it alone. I needed friends.” 

She found friends in the community recently during a Fistula Foundation mobilization, where she told her story and danced with the other women, showing that she was dry. 

With an eye toward the future, Jacqueline hopes to start maize farming and selling produce to make money. She will then use that money to buy items to sell at the market. 

“I never imagined getting better,” she said. “I’m thankful to the Fistula Foundation.”

This story was written by Kristi Eaton in 2018 for Fistula Foundation’s Writer in Residence program. 

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