NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 16 – Eighteen-year-old Hilda Makandi was disowned by her husband two years ago, shortly after giving birth to their son.
She joined a long list of women who suffer abandonment after developing complications in child birth, leaking urine or stool uncontrollably.
The condition is called Fistula – medically classified as Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) and Recto Vaginal Fistula (RVF). VVF is an abnormal connection between the urinary bladder and the vagina which leads to constant leakage.
RFV on the other hand is an abnormal communication between the rectum and vagina, which leads to leakage of stool.
This is the agony that Miss Makandi had to undergo at such an early age and has been living with the condition for two years.
“I had labour for two weeks,” she narrates. “I left hospital for home and after some days, I began experiencing terrible abdominal pains and leakage. I went back to a hospital in Kawangware which confirmed I had Fistula.”
Unfortunately, she could not afford the Sh10, 000 required for treatment at the small dispensary.
So, resigned to fate, she went back home. In the meantime all she could do was struggling to hide her ‘shameful’ condition from friends, family and neighbours.
“I had no control of going to the toilet. I was bleeding throughout. It destroyed my small job. I had to carry extra clothes everyday, and my husband took off because of the smell and he also thought it was a sexually transmitted disease,” she says.
Typically, depression set in and she was only able to open up to a friend and later her mother, after one and a half years.
“They were however in shock; my mum became too anxious because of my walking style and of course the smell,” she says.
Ray of Hope
It was all joy and a new beginning for Miss Makandi when she heard that Vesico Vaginal Fistula specialists will be holding a free medial camp to repair VVF and RVF at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).
“I heard it over the radio and I knew my problems were coming to an end. I could not believe it because God knows I had given up in the two years of stink,” she says elated.
“People will no longer run away from me now, and I will not longer carry extra clothes nor wear diapers. I can also get a job after the surgery.”
The African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF) is financing the fistula treatment.
The free treatment which began last Friday run for two weeks.
A Maasai warrior, Ole Kumari, is also happy to bring his two sisters-in-law for the free treatment although he does not exactly understand what they are suffering from.
“Their husbands sold a cow and gave me money for transport to bring them,” he tells Capital News.
One of the in-laws, Seriani, who can hardly communicate in Kiswahili, says she has lived with condition for about 20 years.
The close to 300 women who turned up on Friday, are from very remote areas in Kenya or the slums.
Amina, a refugee from Daadab says: “My baby died (at birth) and left me with this condition. My husband took off and now he just moves around with other women.”
KNH Chief Executive Officer Dr Jotham Micheni says Fistula affects women who cannot afford skilled midwives.
He says most of them are between 15-23 years and the incomplete physical development before pregnancy leads to prolonged labour which results in VVF or RVF.
Dr Micheni also says survival chances for the unborn child are minimal.
Fistula also occurs as a result of infections, trauma like in rape cases, complications during surgery, tumour of the cervix and, among others, exposure to radiation.
The KNH boss says 400 cases of Fistula are reported at the referral hospital every year, yet only 25 percent of these undergo surgery due to the high costs.
In Africa Fistula affects about 100,000 with East Africa reporting 5,000 cases every year.
Due to the shame and the expense associated with the condition, very few women in Kenya seek for medical attention despite the terrible circumstances in which they live.