Twenty-five women in Zimbabwe, who recently underwent successful obstetric fistula operations at Chinhoyi Hospital, in Mashonaland West Province, proclaimed in unison, that “we are happy to go back home as normal people, and start living as normal people,” after years of what they described as suffering and living in isolation, due to the condition, which in addition to discomfort, also causes an unpleasant odor.
A preventable condition that has been essentially eliminated in many developed nations, obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal sustained during child birth, remains a common maternal morbidity that impacts thousands of women in developing countries each year. Some women have lived with this condition for as many as 25-years.
Women afflicted by this injury, often suffer incontinence, infections, kidney disease, and foot drop or reduced ability to walk, as a result of nerve damage. Additionally, a large number of women with obstetric fistula deliver stillborn babies.
The women who were operated on, for free, as part of a campaign to raise awareness and treat the condition, travelled from as Bocha in Manicaland province. One of the women from Bocha who wanted to be identified only as Gertrude, said she was full of joy and could not wait to get back home as quote, “a normal,” woman.
Gertrude expressed gratitude to national coordinator Fortune Mabhande of the Women and Health Alliance International (WAHA), who in partnership with Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and United National, launched the campaign to give free surgeries to women with obstetric fistula.
In an earlier interview, Mabhande said more than 300 women had signed up for the surgery, which started in mid-August.
“I don’t know how I can thank sister Fortune and the company,” said Gertrude, crediting VOA’s Zimbabwe Service for broadcasting the information about the campaign.
“I listen to Studio 7, that is where I heard about the program, and phoned Fortune’s number, who asked me to come here,” said Gertrude.
Among the freedoms Gertrude said she was looking forward to as a result of the successful operation was something many take for granted.
“I can now feel I can go to the toilet unlike before I was operated,” she revealed.
Another woman from Kwekwe, in Midlands Province, who wanted to be identified simply as mai Susan, also expressed relief at the prospect of living normally and confidently.
“Urine would come out unawares, for the last 12-years, but now I feel healed after the operation,” she said.
Also happy to be rid of the discomfort of urinary incontinence, was another woman called Mrs. Moyo, who said she happy that she would no longer be a subject of of gossip and embarrassment when she returned to her home.
Another woman, identifying herself as Mrs. Mhofu, said she waited three days for the operation, and was hopeful that she too would be as successfully treated for obstetric fistula as the other women who had undergone the surgery.
“I know I will get healed because others are getting well after the operation,” said Mrs. Mhofu.
The WAHA program that co-sponsored the surgeries is part of a five-year national campaign to end obstetric fistula in Zimbabwe.