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Fistula Repair in the DRC | by UNFPA HQ
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Fistula Repair in the DRC

Odette Kusiku Mbaku Maswaku, 40 years old. Odette was in labour for 3 days, she said – “I was suffering a lot. I was thinking I just want to die – the pain was too much.” She realised her baby had died inside her and begged the doctor to take it out. After the baby was removed Odette went home but was still in a lot of pain and leaking urine. For 4 years Odette tried struggled ot get proper medical attention. She says “The urine was making me smell bad. Even though I was in pain I had to go back to selling fish at the market. My husband didn’t work, I had to support them all. I used to sell fish. But the customers stopped coming. They didn’t say it to me, but I know they weren’t coming because of the smell. I was so ashamed. My husband and sister were very supportive but I still felt this shame.” Eventually she was able to be operated on to fix the fistula in a hospital supportd by UNFPA – “It was free and it worked. Now I’m okay. I couldn’t believe that this problem was gone. Now I do sensitisation. I find women in the area with the same pain and take them to hospital. People don’t know they don’t have to live with this. I’ve taken women there and they’ve now come back to the community and can live normal lives.” Pictured with Odette is her sister, 37 year old Syntiche Kitenge, her husband – Sumbamanu Fulgence, Son – 12 year old Sumbamanu Honorine, and daughter – 16 year old Sumbamanu Gloir. Obstetric Fistula is usually caused by several days of obstructed labour, without timely medical intervention — typically a Caesarean section to relieve the pressure. The consequences of fistula are life shattering: The baby dies, and the woman is left with chronic incontinence. Because of her inability to control her flow of urine or faeces, she is often abandoned by her husband and family and ostracized by her community. Her prospects for work and family life are greatly diminished. It is most common in poor communities in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. An estimated two million women remain untreated and at least 50,000 to 100,000 new cases occur each year. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos. Kinshasa, DR Congo. March 2010

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Taken on March 30, 2010