33-year-old Falhada Omar Mohammed is from Garissa, in Kenya’s far northeast corner. In March 2016,she went into labour and was attended to by a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA).
After two days of labour, she delivered a stillborn. Unknown to her at the time, Falhada experienced obstructed labour. Her baby got stuck and could not fit through the pelvic cavity. In such situations, in skilled delivery, the mother undergoes a caesarian cut to deliver the baby. Since the TBA could not do the caesarian cut, Falhada lost her baby.
The loss of her child was accompanied by many other emotional and physical problems. Soon after the birth, Falhada started leaking urine. Dadaab camp where she lived could not treat her and was referred to Garissa hospital for further treatment. Falhada felt as if her life had been put on hold. She learnt that she had Obstetric Fistula, a condition brought on by the obstructive labour she experienced. “I endured a lot of pain during the birth but only to find the baby was not alive. Even after the delivery, I still felt in intense pain and I was weak and tired,” she narrates.
Her husband and her family tried getting the medical treatment she required but due to lack of finances, they were unable to get the said services. Instead, they offered her what they could afford; emotional support. “We had heard about the free medical camps that are done once in a while and so we used to pray for such an opportunity,” explains Falhada.
However, as days went by, Falhadho became desperate and started looking for alternative methods of treatment. “I went to a traditional doctor who inserted a hot metal rod in my vagina, claiming it would treat my condition. I have never felt such intense pain. But I was desperate,” she narrates.
The situation did not improve. In fact, the very next day, Falhada was admitted at Garissa Provincial Hospital due to her injuries. “I was devastated. I really thought I would be cured.
I remembered how people avoided me because I was smelly, and cried,” she states sadly. While at the hospital receiving treatment, Falhada was informed about a free Fistula camp by Amref Health Africa in Kenya that would be taking place in the same place. She was informed that she would receive a call when the camp started, to go for treatment.
“I went home and waited for that call, it was a call of hope to me. Every time I had my phone ringing I wished it was from the hospital,” she said. “Then one day, the doctor called me.” Falhada underwent surgery a few days later.
“I am happy that for the first time in my life I am completely dry, and I do not have to look over my shoulders while moving, and I can freely speak in public without feeling embarrassed,” she says while smiling.
Falhadho plans to help other women in her area by discouraging home deliveries through TBA.
Health System Strengthening Programme whose objective is to deliver quality preventive, clinical and diagnostics services to under-served communities in Africa has so far done 20,000 surgeries in East and Central Africa. The programme is funded by CEI in Italy through Amref Health Africa in Italy. In Kenya more than 300 hospitals in eight counties have benefited from the services provided by the programme.
YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT OUR WORK TO END FISTULA.
Join us, the British Chamber of Commerce Kenya, and the Rotary Clubs of Kenya for a fundraising golf tournament – The Fistula Challenge – at Karen Country Club on Friday, November 24 to end shame and restore dignity for women like Falhada Omar Mohammed.
Story by Maureen Cherongis