Fistula - Nigeria


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Fistula - Nigeria


Bring hope and dignity to women suffering from a debilitating condition called obstetric fistula.

cbm is helping to ensure women suffering from obstetric fistula in Nigeria have access to medical services provided by highly skilled doctors and nurses. The aim is to raise awareness of obstetric fistula, and to protect and treat young mothers from the tragedy of fistula. Without intervention, fistula can lead to chronic medical, social and psychological problems. This programme supports women during surgery and with post-operative care.


Obstetric Fistula occurs when the baby’s head puts too much pressure on the mother’s maternal tissues, cutting the blood supply. The tissue dies and leaves a hole, or fistula, causing urine and faeces to leak uncontrollably.

An estimated 2-3.5 million women living with obstetric fistula are in the developing world. Nigeria accounts for 40% of fistula cases worldwide. Women with fistula are often excluded from daily activities, husbands frequently leave them and women are removed from their village due to their incontinence. Many women live with the condition for decades, unable to access the medical intervention that can change their lives.

The main causes of fistula in developing countries are extreme poverty and the low status of women and girls. Malnutrition in children contributes to stunting, when the female skeleton – including the pelvis – doesn’t fully mature this can lead to birthing difficulties resulting in issues like fistula.


  • Training health professionals to refer difficult births for maternal care and identify and refer patients with obstetric fistula.
  • Running outreach clinics to identify women in need of fistula surgery.
  • Performing reconstructive fistula surgeries to affected women.
  • Providing assistive devices for improved mobility.
  • Providing post-surgical physiotherapy, counselling and business skills training.
  • Running campaigns in the community to raise awareness of obstetric fistula.

Additional information


One-off, Every Week, Every 2 Weeks, Every 4 Weeks, Every Month, Quarterly, Annually


This Mother’s Day month, please send a special gift to help heal heartbroken mothers like Mary from the life-long smell, sickness and shame of obstetric fistula…

“…she forgets the anguish because of her joy…” – John 16:21

In the month of May, New Zealanders love to celebrate Mother’s Day. In the same spirit, cbm supporters like you show extraordinary Mother’s Day love to heartbroken women with obstetric fistula, like Mary in Nigeria.

14 years. Almost 15. That is how long bodily waste leaked uncontrollably from Mary’s body.

Not many people are aware of this devastating and debilitating health condition which can be caused during traumatic childbirth, and there are very few doctors who know how to treat obstetric fistula in the developing world. Mary’s postnatal doctors told her she was fine. She knew she was not.

For lack of knowledge, Mary suffered more than a decade of heart-breaking shame.

Mary was not fine. Far from it. Yet she tirelessly took on every responsibility of a healthy woman – mother, wife, secretary, Sunday School teacher – while struggling with endless extreme self-cleaning and wrapping, trying to stop the smell of leaking urine and bodily waste escaping from her.

This Mother’s Day month, please help restore the dignity of mothers, like Mary, by sending a generous fistula gift.

From the smallest village to the largest city, obstetric fistula can remain untreated when poverty prevents skilled maternal healthcare. Mary herself lives in the vast city of Lagos.

The birth of her first child should have been joyful, but Mary knew something was wrong with her body. She felt it, then smelt it. Bodily waste was leaking from her. She had no control over it.

In a long, stalled labour, the baby’s head had jammed against the tender membrane of Mary’s birth canal.

Starved of oxygen, a small part of Mary’s birth canal wall died. It formed a hole, causing urine to seep through uncontrollably.

The postnatal doctor didn’t know anything about obstetric fistula. He told Mary, You’re fine. “The doctor said he couldn’t find anything.”

Would this ever happen in New Zealand? Wouldn’t you go back to the doctor, again and again? Mary couldn’t do that. The cost of healthcare in Nigeria was far beyond her meagre income.

From that moment on, this heartbroken mother was forced to take scrupulous care of her cleanliness. This required constant cleaning, padding and wrapping to conceal the leak and suppress the smell.

Ever since then, Mary has been struggling to hide her shame. Constantly on the edge of utter humiliation in case someone smells her.

She is never able to venture far from a bathroom she knows well. Afraid to use a public toilet in case she can’t wrap herself afterwards. Always on the verge of dehydration because drinking means more leaking. Terrified that the smell would reach those around her.

Please help support mothers, like Mary, who cannot afford to have their obstetric fistula surgically repaired. The gift you send will be used to train doctors and medical staff – and to conduct surgery that restores the hope and dignity of heartbroken mothers.

“My situation is extremely uncomfortable,” Mary said. “I do not like to use the toilet in the office, because I won’t be able to clean myself properly. I have to clean myself completely to avoid smelling.”

Obstetric fistula has broken her heart, but not her faith. She said, “I feel depressed, but I am trusting in God that everything will be all right.”

So many times she pleaded and cried out to God. “God, You’re the one who moulded me. Come and fix this thing. You can still correct it. Come and correct it for me.”

Her answer from God came like a miracle.

Against all odds, in their huge city, her husband found a little online advert about the cbm-funded hospital, Survive Fistula Healthcare Foundation (SFHF). With the support from generous people like you, they care for mothers with obstetric fistula at the Kwali General Hospital – a 12-hour drive from Lagos.

At first, Mary was overjoyed, but then she worried – how could she possibly pay for private surgery? She called up to ask, to be told that every part of the treatment is free of charge! The van ride, the surgery, the hospital stay… all free!!

Free?! This worried her even more. She thought it might be a kidnapping plot! Would her husband put her in the van, never to see her again?

“Everything was too sweet to be true. I felt afraid. You know the security situation in my country.”

As Mary climbed into the SFHF van, for the first time in her life she met other women who had been leaking and wrapping and hiding, just like her. Talking about their shared suffering was greatly comforting for them all.

Mary could scarcely believe that her brothers and sisters in Christ, far away in New Zealand, cared about her enough to restore her hope and dignity.

When Mary shared her fear of going to SFHF, the woman on the phone understood her fears. “She laughed, and assured me everything was fine.”

However, when the staff welcomed them to the Kwali General Hospital, Mary still had doubts. Her faith in God was strong, but she had lost all faith in doctors. Would the fistula doctor again say “You’re fine” and send her home unhealed. It is sad to see her low level of trust in the medical profession.

This is why obstetric fistula is mostly left untreated in countries like Nigeria: doctors cannot get the training they need, even in the biggest cities.

Please will you prayerfully consider sending a Mother’s Day gift to support the cbm-funded SFHF. Your gift will help find mothers hidden in shame and isolation living with obstetric fistula, and help provide a safe haven for mothers who are cast out in shame because of this debilitating health condition. Your gift will help support life-restoring fistula surgery, hospital care and home medicine for mothers, like Mary, to heal.

You will be helping women who haven’t received care for years and years. They cannot earn enough to pay for the surgery they need.

Our heart goes out to Mary – trying so hard to cope with her bodily functions on top of all life’s responsibilities as a wife, mother, employee and children’s church volunteer. She’s an incredible person. She has tried to lead a positive life, but obstetric fistula has taken a huge toll on her self-worth.

But now, thanks to people like you, her anguish is about to become joy. “I am so thankful to God for the perfect work in healing me.”

Thank you for being willing to be part of this perfect work, by sharing your prayers and your blessings so generously with heartbroken mothers, like Mary, who have been suffering from the smell, shame and isolation of obstetric fistula. Please prayerfully consider sending a generous gift for mothers, like Mary, today.

For nearly fifteen years, Mary struggled to hide leaking bodily waste caused through traumatic childbirth. Your prayers and your gift will help turn a mothers’ anguish into joy. This Mother’s Day month please send your generous gift to provide surgery and treatment to restore hope and dignity, and free mothers from the smell, shame and isolation of obstetric fistula. Thank you.