Please help keep hope alive for mothers, like Halima in Nigeria, living with the life-long smell, shame and isolation of obstetric fistula!

Your gift will help restore their dignity.

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you…” – Isaiah 66:13

For the last three unbearable years, Halima has been hiding a secret, due to the traumatic birth of her last child. Since then she has been uncontrollably leaking urine.

She has a condition you may not have heard of, because it very rarely occurs in New Zealand. Halima’s urine is ceaselessly seeping through a small tear in the wall of her birth canal. That small, life-destroying tear is called an obstetric fistula.

Every hour of every night, Halima must wake, get up and clean herself. Every hour! A life sentence of utter exhaustion.

Halima is so overwhelmed by the double disadvantage of her poverty and her disability. She has had to make the most heart-breaking decisions about her life.

But we thank God for wonderful people like you, who care enough to support such a deeply saddened and exhausted mother.

By sending a gift today for obstetric fistula surgery and ministry, you will give mothers, like Halima, a new choice, a far better choice, that can only come from love and generosity.

Please will you prayerfully consider sending your gift to help heal and restore mothers who are facing a lifetime of smell, shame and isolation due to obstetric fistula.

Halima is a primary school teacher who has been battling to maintain her dignity and keep her obstetric fistula secret from the children in her class, the other teachers and everyone she knows – except for God and the other hero in her life, her devoted husband.

Her first three children were born without any problems. Only in her fourth childbirth did something go very wrong. Her labour stalled and her unborn baby was trapped, partly-born.

The lengthy pressure of the stalled baby’s head was enough to stop the blood flow in the wall of Halima’s birth canal. By the time labour restarted and her baby was born – safe and healthy, praise God – this small area of blood-deprived flesh had been squeezed for too long.

As a result, that part of the birth canal could not recover, leaving a tear: an obstetric fistula. With nothing to stop the flow from her bladder, urine started leaking uncontrollably through her birth canal – and it wouldn’t stop!

Halima was so ashamed as her bodily waste soaked through her clothes.

If this happened to a New Zealand mother in labour, advanced maternal care would prevent a fistula from ever breaking through the birth canal. If an obstetric fistula did occur, a quick stitch would put things right.

That kind of care and surgery is not an option for mothers in poverty like Halima, with such limited maternal healthcare. In Nigeria alone 13,000 mothers a year face this new nightmare. Smell, shame, isolation and social stigma. Leaking urine or even faeces and never able to stop it. Sometimes for decades – and that is what Halima’s life looked set to become.

Please help free mothers, like Halima, from the life-long smell, shame and isolation of obstetric fistula.

At first, a doctor tried to stem the flow by pushing a catheter tube past the obstetric fistula. For three months Halima tried to endure the catheter, in constant cramping pain and continual risk of agonising urinary tract infections.

Finally, she had to make her first heart-breaking choice: to remove the catheter that she could not bear any longer – even though it meant humiliation, shame and constant smell.

As soon as the catheter was out, Halima was leaking again. She was devastated.

She tried everything she could to reduce the flow. She restricted her fluids, putting herself at grave risk of dehydration, and the damage it could do to her kidneys, liver, and even her brain.

Even worse, Halima starved herself of sleep – allowing herself no more than an hour at a time.

“My alarm is set at one hour, to prevent me from wetting the bed,” Halima explained sadly, through her exhaustion. “I set my alarm to wake up every hour in the night so that I don’t wet myself.”

Every hour! No more than an hour of rest! Getting up every hour to clean and re-wrap herself. Constantly trying to find a way not to smell.

How can this be? Sleep is when we repair ourselves. Sleep is precious to our overall health.

At school, she was desperately afraid that the pupils she taught would notice her leaking. Children could never keep that secret. If staff or parents found out, the stigma would be unbearable.

Halima became an exhausted and troubled woman. At least she was not alone. So many mothers with obstetric fistula are abandoned by their husbands, families and whole communities. A smelly, leaking mother can be the loneliest of all our sisters.

Fortunately, Halima has a very loving husband. His heart broke, seeing his beloved wife suffering so badly. He looked everywhere in the region of Nigeria’s capital city, trying to find someone who knew how to fix Halima’s leaking.

What he found was a hospital that could repair her obstetric fistula at a cost, that may not seem that much to us, but would financially destroy their family.

Halima made another heart-breaking choice: to continue leaking, so they could afford to feed and clothe their children.

She resigned herself to an entire lifetime of sleeplessness, exhaustion and leaking… but her husband did not give up looking. As a husband, I know that when my wife Joy hurts, I hurt too. Halima’s husband never let go of hope.

One day on the radio, he heard a jingle. Just a simple tune, but it turned out to be the most beautiful music he had ever heard.

The jingle was a public service announcement by cbm’s partner who provides obstetric fistula ministry in Nigeria. They are called Sustainable Family Healthcare Foundation (SFHF) and they do a wonderful job of turning your generosity into life-restoring medical care and surgery for mothers with obstetric fistula.

With this simple radio jingle, they let it be known that mothers with obstetric fistula can find help at a hospital, two hours by bus from the capital city.

Halima’s husband didn’t quite catch the phone number, but his heart was filled with hope. He immediately went to get Halima. Normally she would never travel so far without a break to clean herself, but her husband insisted they try.

For Halima, it was hard to hope, but when they reached the cbm-partnered SFHF hospital, the team gave them unbelievable news. Her obstetric fistula was going to be repaired by a surgeon specially trained in the technique – and because of generous people like you, it would be free, without charge!

Obstetric fistula surgery is so rare across Africa because it is not normally covered in a surgeon’s education. Your support will make it possible to train surgeons who care deeply for the plight of mothers like Halima. You will be helping to train them in the technique that sets mothers free from obstetric fistula forever.

Halima was overwhelmed by the generosity of people like you as she went through her surgery and came out joyfully released from her shame and distress. “The surgery went well, and I am so happy and relieved.”

That night, for the first time in years, Halima was able to sleep in sweet freedom, released from the fear of wetting herself.

We are sure she looked at the sheets in the morning, fearing she had leaked in the night. Thanks to a gift like yours, her sheets were clean and dry – just as they have been every night since she returned home completely free from obstetric fistula.

Now, as we ask you for your help, please consider the mothers who do not have a loving and loyal husband like Halima’s.

Because so many mothers are utterly rejected, obstetric fistula ministry does not stop at surgery.

Your gift will help provide the wraparound care to heal women’s hearts that have been broken in so many ways.

Please will you prayerfully consider sending a generous gift to help restore hope and dignity to more mothers like Halima. Here is how your loving kindness can help:

Your gift will help find mothers hidden in shame and isolation living with obstetric fistula. It will help support life-restoring obstetric fistula surgery, hospital care and home medicine for mothers, like Halima, to heal.

Imagine the impact of your prayers and your gifts, for a mother like Halima. She says, “I am looking forward to sleeping long hours just like everyone else – without being woken up by the alarm every hour.”

Thank you for being part of this rare and remarkable ministry to mothers who would otherwise live a lifetime in secret shame. Thanks to your generosity they will be able to sleep peacefully, clean and dry and unashamed. Please send your gift today, to set mothers, like Halima, free from obstetric fistula.

After a traumatic labour, Halima had to make the heart-breaking choice to live with constantly-leaking urine, because she could never afford the obstetric surgery and care she needed. Please pray for mothers, like Halima, and send your gift today. Thank you for your kind and caring heart.