We met Agnes in Tanzania, and although she was not featured in NWNC, Agnes had shared her story with us about how she lost her baby over ten years ago after a prolonged and obstructed labor that resulted with an obstetric fistula.Fistulas are a common and tragic morbidity associated with maternal mortality, particularly common in sub-Saharan Africa. (Obstetric fistula is an injury sustained during prolonged and obstructed labor and childbirth.) For each maternal death there are roughly 20 women who suffer lifelong disabilities incurred during pregnancy and childbirth.
When we first met Agnes in 2009 she was very small, clearly undernourished and ashamed of herself and her condition. Her husband had all but abandoned both her and her daughter, Naishiye, and they were both shunned from the community. Most women who have the harsh misfortune of enduring such complications in childbirth, if they survive them, become social outcasts. All the clinic could offer Agnes was some advise on how to wrap herself in order to minimize the soiling. We learned while we were here in 2009 that there was an initiative at one of the hospitals near Arusha that offered free fistula repair surgeries.When we left Agnes, we knew that a date had been set for the surgery. Meeting her again in 2011 was like seeing a new woman.
After having suffered with a fistula for more than a decade, she was now thriving. We learned that because Agnes had waited so long to seek help, the repair was more of a challenge. She is now speaking out in her community as an advocate so that others don't endure the unnecessary pain and stigmatization she has suffered. She is setting a valuable example each and every day for her daughter, Naishye and the women in her community.