Every day thousands of women across Nepal face humiliation from the physical challenges of obstetric fistula*. Many of these women dream of a new life, free from dishonour and disgrace. These women include Sushila who hopes she will one day sleep in a dry bed or Mana who longs to walk out of her home without feeling embarrassed, wondering what her neighbours think. This year’s fistula camp saw INF staff help fulfil some of these dreams.
Sadly, however, while many women return home having had successful surgery the on-going affect of difficult childbirth will mark the rest of their lives. Kalamati’s surgery in 2015 has kept her dry but she is unable to have children due to the damage her womb sustained. Her husband has left her and she fears for her future. While Dhunki’s surgery successfully closed her fistula, she continues to leak urine and is forced to sleep in an animal shelter.
INF’s fistula team are committed to providing more than just surgery for women. They are working across Nepal to end fistula through prevention. Today [May 23] the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, INF nurses Dil Kumari and Kripa will be training health workers in fistula prevention, while Shirley [INF Gynaecologist] and Kanta [Hospital Support Services Coordinator] educate key government officials at a workshop in Kathmandu. They will be sharing information to those able to bring about necessary changes through the broader health system.
Fifty-nine-year-old Chinchali is from Badachaur in Rolpa District, a remote mountainous area of Nepal. Chinchali married at age 14 and had a son, but the arrival of her daughter three years later changed the course of her life. After a protracted labour the baby was stillborn and the damage from the birth caused her to leak urine uncontrollably. Her once happy family life began to unravel. Her husband started gambling his wages, he physically abused her and eventually left her for another wife. He even took her son, leaving Chinchali alone to look after her ageing mother-in-law.
After 26 years of incontinence Chinchali attended a gynaecology camp near her village. At the camp she was advised to seek help from Koholpur Hospital but upon arriving at the hospital she was told treatment was unavailable and she would need to travel to Kathmandu or India.
Despite the disappointment, Chinchali returned home and continued her work farming animals to make a living. While listening to the radio she heard about an upcoming INF fistula camp in Surkhet. Courageously Chinchali travelled to Surkhet and made her way to the Mid-Western Regional hospital in Surkhet where the camp was just beginning. INF staff, and a ward of women with similar stories, welcomed her.
Chinchali had surgery to close the large hole in her bladder. Today she is able to control her urine and after thirty years of despair, she feels as though she has reclaimed her life.
*Obstetric fistula is a hole caused by prolonged obstructed labor, leaving a woman incontinent of urine, faeces or both.