Transforming lives in Ethiopia

Alemnesh’s hope for the future

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Obstetric fistula: a story heard all too often

Alemnesh was married as a child at the age of just 14 and fell pregnant for the first time two years later. In her early 20s, after suffering prolonged labours and tragically delivering four stillborn babies, Alemnesh sustained a devastating childbirth injury: obstetric fistula – an internal tear between her birth canal and bladder. She was left living with uncontrolled incontinence, which caused continuous infections. She had already suffered so much loss, and then her husband abandoned her.

Her solace was her only living son. But when he reached just 12 years of age he was forced to leave school to earn what money he could to support his mother.

I feel sorry for my only child, he has a lot of responsibilities; to feed me, wash my urine-soaked clothes, working as a daily labourer… He is doing all kinds of hard labour work at the age of 12”.

All Alemnesh’s hope is around her son. She wanted him to be educated and see him living a better life.

A journey to be cured.

On the 18th July this year, Alemnesh arrived at Jimma Fistula Centre, run by our partner Hope of Light. Following assessment, their caring team knew they could help her. She stayed at the centre for four weeks so that they could help her build up her strength and prepare for the operation. By the 16th August she was ready for surgery and on the 22nd August they removed the catheter: the operation was successful. Alemnesh was cured.

Dr Ambaye Woldemichael (four from right) and the team at Jimma Hospital

"Today I can see tomorrow"

Alemnesh described being cured from fistula as “like to be born again”. She was laughing and crying at the same time. “I had no real life for the last 7 years, but today I can see tomorrow”.

“Now I am cured. When I return back home, I will work and take over all the responsibilities from my son… My dream is to see him going to school.”

Alemnesh went on to enrol at another of Ethiopiaid’s network of fistula partners, Healing Hands of Joy. They help women who have been through the trauma of fistula with rehabilitation and counselling, supporting them to settle back home. Women can also decide to train as Safe Motherhood Ambassadors, who go onto work in their communities, encouraging women to seek antenatal care during pregnancy, as well as locating other women living with obstetric fistula.

Obstetric fistula survivors trained as Safe Motherhood Ambassadors - a group of women standing together in the dappled shade, one is holding her baby. All wearing matching black and white dresses and smiling.
A graduating class of new Safe Motherhood Ambassadors

There are so many more women who haven’t yet found help or even know that it is available to them. The cost of travelling from remote rural communities, childcare needs, fear of the unknown and loss of earnings are all too daunting to consider leaving home.

But with your help, our partners can continue their vital role in ending obstetric fistula.

Please make a donation today and help us reach the women who don’t yet know they can be cured. 

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