Margret Oduor is a 50-year-old mother and wife from Manga in Siaya County, Kenya. She practices small scale farming to support her four daughters while her husband works in Mombasa.

Margret lived with obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal often caused by prolonged or obstructed labour and inadequate health care, for more than 30 years. Obstetric fistula causes continuous incontinence, which made it very difficult for Margret to carry on with her normal daily activities. It was common for people to laugh at her publicly and call her dirty. The priest of her church even condemned her for the smell and asked her to never return to church because she was making the congregants uncomfortable.

To try to soak up the leaking urine, Margret had to use many pieces of cloth which left her with a smell that caused most people to avoid her. Her husband would not share the same bed with her whenever he came home so she had to sleep on the floor. Margret felt stigmatized and depressed, and says she often had suicidal thoughts because she felt so worthless.

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Her daughters did their best to ensure Margret’s welfare. They even sought medical services from an herbalist with the hope of restoring her back to health. Margret once visited a nearby hospital in search of treatment but the doctors there said she would have to pay 10,000 Kenyan Shillings, which she could not afford.

One day over the radio Margret heard an announcement that Amref Health Africa in Kenya would be having a free medical camp for women living with obstetric fistula at Ukwala Health Centre, not far from her home. The medical camp was part of a four-year project called the Canada-Africa Initiative to Address Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality made possible with financial support from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.

With encouragement from her husband and daughters, she decided to attend the medical camp with the hope of getting a solution to her condition. She underwent the screening process and received formal diagnosis of obstetric fistula. She was issued with a referral card to Siaya Referral Hospital for free surgery at a later date.

“The moment I found myself in the hospital ward I knew my healing process was commencing and I couldn’t wait to get home fully healed.”

“The moment I found myself in the hospital ward I knew my healing process was commencing and I couldn’t wait to get home fully healed,” says Margret. A catheter was inserted as part of the post-surgical treatment, and doctors advised her to be take five litres of clean water daily and maintain high hygiene standards in order to fast track the healing process. She was discharged and given a follow up clinic appointment.

When she came back to the clinic, the catheter was removed and doctors gave her a clean bill of health – a moment of joy for Margret and her family. Margret is thankful to Amref Health Africa in Kenya and the team of doctors who took part in her healing process. She is also thankful to her family members for standing by her. Her relationship with her husband now is well restored and both are enjoying their life together.

The Canada-Africa Initiative to Address Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality is a partnership among four Canadian organizations – Amref Health Africa, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, Centre for Global Child Health at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and WaterAid Canada. With support of $24.9 million from the Government of Canada (85% of the total project budget), this four-year project (2016 to 2020) aims to directly reach 1.7 million women, children and men across 20 districts in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania.

The partners are working together with African communities to improve the delivery of essential health services to moms, pregnant women, newborns and children under the age of five, increase the use of these improved health services, and improve the consumption of nutritious foods and supplements.