Women of Malawi

Oh break my broken heart:

Between Oct. 12 and 18, the Malawian government, with technical and financial assistance from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), treated more than 130 destitute women who have no or little access to health care services.

Lausi Adamu, from Makanjira in Malawi’s lake district of Mangochi, who does not know her exact age, has suffered from fistula for the last 25 years. Her affliction came to an end last week, when she received an operation free of charge to stop her ailment.

Adamu told IPS reporter Pilirani Semu-Banda about her life with the disease as she recuperated in hospital after the operation.

IPS: How did you develop fistula?

Lausi Adamu: It was 25 years ago, when I was in labour for three days while giving birth to my first and only child at home.

I received no medical care throughout pregnancy, and it was only my mother who was with me during delivery. There was no midwife or doctor available. It was a very long and painful labour and the baby was stillborn when he eventually came out.

I have been unable to control the leakage of both urine and faeces from my body ever since and I haven’t had the courage to have another child.

IPS: Why did you not receive medical care during pregnancy and delivery?

LA: It takes four hours to walk from my village to the nearest hospital, and no vehicle goes into my area because the road is in a very bad condition. Most births therefore happen at home, and women rely on their mothers, their mother-in-laws or traditional birth attendants to help them during labour.

The culture in my area also demands that the first baby has to be delivered at home for elders to ensure that the husband is indeed responsible for the pregnancy. There is a belief that most women have more than one relationship after they just got married -– so the women who help at birth ask the woman in labour to mention the (name of the) real father of the baby. The belief is that if any complications develop during the process of giving birth the woman has been unfaithful.

IPS: What did you know about fistula before you developed the condition?

LA: I thought I was bewitched, but everyone else in my community thought I had been unfaithful to my husband. It was a very strange affliction. My mother took me to five different traditional healers who told me that the condition was incurable and that I should accept to live with it for the rest of my life.

However, there have been many such cases in my area over the years, and most of the women have been treated by community members the same way as me (with contempt).

Government and UNFPA staff have in the past year been coming to my area, and they have been carrying out community meetings where they are telling us that the condition is medical and that it is repairable.

I decided to come to the hospital to see if indeed I can be helped after one of the women from my community, who had a similar condition, came back cured after visiting the hospital.

Read the rest here

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