“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.” – Psalm 30:11
An estimated 2 to 3.5 million women with obstetric fistula live in the developing world, and according to the World Health Organisation between 50,000 to 100,000 women worldwide develop obstetric fistula annually. In developing countries, for every woman who receives treatment, at least 50 go without. They live in poverty and experience traumatic births without medical help. If left untreated, these young mothers suffer years of pain, grief and isolation.
Nigeria is placed among the top 10 most dangerous places for a woman to give birth and accounts for 40% of obstetric fistula cases worldwide. Nigeria has the fourth-highest maternal mortality rate with 917/100,000 live births. (New Zealand has 9/100,000).There are 13,000 new cases every year – the highest of any country globally – largely due to lack of medical care during labour. Trained health personnel see only about 65% of deliveries.
To see how your generosity is changing the world for good, just look at how much has been done for mothers like Maimunat. When cbm supporters began supporting fistula operations, woman after woman had been living with incontinence for many years, in absolute torment and lonely isolation. Thankfully Maimunat’s experience of fistula has been so different, because of generous people like you.
Maimunat’s labour was very difficult, after hours of trying, her labour just stopped. Her baby’s head was left wedged tightly in Maimunat’s birth canal. No blood could reach the thin wall of flesh separating her birth canal from her urinary tract. Finally, labour started again, and her little baby was born. For a week the family was able to celebrate their new baby. But Maimunat did not realise that part of the blood-starved wall of her urinary tract had died, and a small hole had broken through to her birth canal. On day seven of her newborn’s life, urine started to dribble from Maimunat’s body, uncontrollably. It would not stop.
This is the mortifying reality of fistula. Without a surgical repair, Maimunat would be leaking… and reeking of urine… for the rest of her life.
For many mothers, their fistula comes from the colon, releasing faeces – but leaking urine is bad enough! Maimunat’s husband rushed her to a nearby hospital, but they immediately encountered the two barriers mothers with fistula in developing countries cannot overcome on their own:
- Lack of fistula surgery skills – No-one at the hospital knew how to repair the little hole in Maimunat’s birth canal.
- Living in poverty – Even with a visiting surgeon, Maimunat and her husband could never afford to pay for the cost of the fistula surgery.
This is why over two million of the world’s poorest mothers have an unrepaired fistula!
Imagine the endless tears between Maimunat and her husband as they faced these facts. A surgeon could come to the hospital and solve her problem so quickly, but they could never afford it. Maimunat’s tragic future began to roll out in front of her. She would be confined to her house for decades, afraid to venture out. Everyone would be repulsed by her smell. Even wrapping sheets around her and wearing herself out with constant laundry could not stop the stench of it.
Even the kindest neighbours would struggle to hide their concern. Strangers would be cruel about her smell. What mother could bear that kind of life, without it breaking her heart and her spirit?
Maimunat had been a joyful praise singer and dancer, but how could she take the overpowering stench of urine into her place of worship? She feared that she would never be able to go to church again. Her husband, so supportive at first, would endure years of embarrassment over his urine-leaking wife. Sadly, there are many reports of husbands breaking under that weight, abandoning their wives and taking their children.
This beautiful daughter of God would become an outcast from society. A woman of the shadows. Unseen and reviled if she ever dared set foot out of her home. What a terrible fate for a woman who just wanted to be a loving mother!
In the first weeks of her fistula, the emotional shock of uncontrollable leaking badly affected Maimunat’s mental health. She stopped eating. Many mothers with fistula do this. When you can’t control what comes out of your body, you fear to put anything in. Maimunat became dangerously underweight and frail. Her punctured birth canal left her vulnerable to life-threatening infections. No mother should ever die because of fistula, but many do.
That is why the cbm-funded partner in Nigeria, so generously supported by people like you, is called SFHF. Survive Fistula Health Foundation. Thankfully, just a few weeks into Maimunat’s life-long tragedy of fistula, cbm-funded health workers from SFHF found her.
Instead of decades of shame, loving kindness ushered a major miracle into Maimunat’s life.
Because of people like you, Maimunat could travel to a hospital in the city of Abuja. There she was welcomed by the warm and loving matron. “This lady didn’t know me,” Maimunat said gratefully, “but she took me as her sister.”
To make the very best possible use of every dollar you gift, mothers receive their surgery in groups of ten. In her group, Maimunat experienced the life-changing miracle of fistula repair – the surgery she could never afford on her own.
“They did everything free for us,” this astonished young mother said. “They did it well!”
Maimunat knows it was because of people like you, her unknown brothers and sisters in New Zealand, who paid for her surgery.
“May God bless you,” she says, “for the work you did for me. I am so happy.”
Could anything hurt a mother’s spirit more than to be leaking and dribbling urine or bodily waste? Maimunat never expected to ever smile again, but thankfully generous people like you have brought joy to her heart.
Because of the tragic lack of maternal healthcare in places like Nigeria, there are more mothers suffering fistula than can be repaired. SFHF is facing a growing backlog of mothers who are desperate for care.
Young mothers with fistula, like Maimunat, are hiding, scared and ashamed, but you can help them receive life-changing surgery and healing in hospital, with medicine for her to recover at home. Your gift can give outcast mothers with fistula a safe place to stay, because many are violently rejected and afraid for their lives.
When Maimunat was released from fistula, she smiled, she laughed, she praised God – and she even danced, singing… “Come and join me – Sing Hallelujah – Jehovah Jireh has done me well…”