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When Falhada Omar Mohammed, 33, went into labour in March 2016 it lasted for two days. Living in the Daadab refugee camp – the largest in the world – in the far northeast corner of Kenya, Falhada depended on the help of an untrained birth attendant. Unknown to Falhada at the time, she was experiencing obstructed labour. Without a skilled health care worker to provide emergency care, such as a caesarian section, Falhada’s baby did not survive.
The loss of her child came with many other emotional and physical difficulties. Soon after the birth, Falhada experienced continuous incontinence. After seeking treatment at the closest hospital, Falhada learned she had obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal often caused by prolonged or obstructed labour. “I endured a lot of pain during the birth but only to find the baby was not alive. Even after the delivery, I still felt intense pain and I was weak and tired,” she says.
Falhada’s husband and family tried getting the medical treatment she required but didn’t have the money to pay for surgery. They offered her what they could afford: emotional support.
A little over a year later, Falhada found out through the local hospital that a free surgery camp was being set up by Amref Health Africa in Kenya to treat women living with obstetric fistula. She signed up, and was told that she would receive a phone call when the camp started. “I went home and waited for that call; it was a call of hope to me. Every time I heard my phone ringing I wished it was from the hospital,” she says. “Then one day, the doctor called me.” Falhada underwent surgery a few days later.
Falhada’s life has changed dramatically since having the surgery. “I am happy that I am completely dry, and I do not have to look over my shoulders while moving, and I can freely speak in public without feeling embarrassed.”
Over the past 25 years, Amref Health Africa has done more than 25,000 fistula repair operations in east, central and southern Africa.