Relief at Last: Bomet Woman Who Battled Fistula for 20 Years Gets Free Surgery

by Amref Health Africa
  • Francisca Chepng’eno has been battling the dreaded obstetric fistula condition for the last 20 years, but now she can afford a smile after free surgery ended the problem for her
  • The condition caused the beautiful lady to isolate herself and missed going to public places like church because urine always dripped from her, which caused her to smell.
  • An obstetric fistula is a hole between the birth canal and rectum or bladder of a woman and is caused by prolonged obstructed labour, leaving her unable to contain urine or faeces

The last 20 years have been horrible for Francisca Chepng’eno who has had to live with the dread fistula condition. Francisca Chepng’eno who battled fistula for 20 Years.

Chepng’eno revealed that she developed the condition right after the birth of her third child in 2002 and has suffered isolation in the process and had to use rags as she cannot afford diapers and rags. She faced so much stigma from the community, as many people did not understand her condition.

A resident of Bomet County, Chepng’eno travelled all the way to Kajiado County when she heard that there will be a free fistula medical camp.

“Fistula has made my life so difficult, going to the market, church or even the river to fetch water has been hard as I meet people who gossip openly about me saying that I smell and they avoid me. This really lowered my confidence and self-esteem,” she said.

She added that she was glad that she had finally received surgery and that she would no longer isolate herself in shame. Basically, an obstetric fistula is a hole between the birth canal and rectum or bladder that occurs after a woman experiences prolonged obstructed labour, leaving her incontinent of urine or faeces or both. It also occurs because of Female Genital Mutilation, trauma from rape and complications during surgery, tumours of the cervix and exposure to radiation. Treatable and curable condition.

According to Dr Meshack Ndirangu Wanjuki, AMREF Health Africa, Country Director, fistula is a treatable and curable condition yet many women continue to suffer in silence. Dr Wanjuki urged all women suffering from leaking urine or faeces to seek medical help adding that they no longer have to suffer.

“Obstetric fistula is preventable and, in most cases, can be repaired surgically. Women who give birth at home may likely develop fistula due to a lack of proper obstetric care. Teenage pregnancies also pre-disposes the girls to fistula as their bodies are not fully developed,” Dr Meshack Ndirangu Wanjuki.

The free fistula medical camp kicked off on April 21st April to 29th April at the Kajiado County Referral Hospital, organized by the County Government in conjunction with AMREF, Beyond Zero Campaign, UNFPA, Flying Doctors Society of Africa, Royal Media Services and M-Pesa Foundation.

Kajiado Governor’s spouse Edna Lenku, who visited the beneficiaries of the fistula surgeries, attributed the fistula prevalence in the County to teenage pregnancies, untimely access to obstetric care and harmful cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation. Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that over two million women are living with obstetric fistula in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is estimated that there are 3,000 new fistula cases in Kenya each year, and only 7.5 per cent of these cases are able to access medical care. The average cost of reconstructive surgery to correct obstetric fistula in a public hospital is Sh. 60,000 which is unaffordable to many.

Experts at the forefront of fighting obstetric fistula indicated that victims shy away from treatment due to COVID-19 phobia. Despite prevention efforts, many women delay seeking treatment and continue to live with fistula due to its stigma.

“Some patients of obstetric fistula are afraid to seek treatment in health facilities because they are afraid of public gatherings amid the pandemic,” said Fistula Foundation programs Director Habiba Mohamed.

Article first published on

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