Nim’a Hassan Mohamud, 24, can see a new future opening up in front of her after undergoing successful fistula surgery in a hospital in Borama in Somaliland.
She underwent the operation on 10 September this year after struggling for four years with the physically and emotionally painful condition that leaves women stigmatized and socially excluded.
Nim’a, who gave birth to her first baby in a rural part of Abudwaq, has come back with her small son to live with her husband under the same roof, after being sent away in shame. She went to live with a close relative.
“I was not able to come out of my room,” Nim’a told Radio Ergo. “I could not do any work. I was someone shunned by the society.”
Nim’a suffered complications during childbirth in the hands of an inexperienced traditional midwife. The birth resulted in her developing obstetric fistula, a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder caused by prolonged obstructed labour, leaving her incontinent.
“I was suffering a lot and even used to cry when I went to the toilet,” she said. “I had no money to go to hospital for treatment.”
Nima’a is now recovering after a women’s group in Abudwaq assisted her and 13 other women to travel to Borama for surgery and treatment. She has started work again as a hawker to bring in some income for her family.
The coordinator of the women’s group, Halwa Adan Guleid, said they have helped 65 women with obstetric fistula to get treatment in Mogadishu and Borama over the last two years.
“These women contacted us and we brought them to our office for a check-up to confirm their condition and provided them with free treatment,” Halwa said.
“We inform people not to shy away from speaking about their situation so that they get treatment. We also talk to the husbands of these women and inform them not to shun their wives who are suffering from fistula.”
Nadar Ahmed Mohamud, also from rural Abudwaq, is one of 30 women on the waiting list for fistula operations. She has suffered shame and exclusion since 2016, so has not minded waiting eight months already for the treatment she hopes to get next year.
“People always tell me that I will never give birth again, they also say you have no hope once you have suffered fistula. They have discouraged me but not everyone is like that, there are also those who are supportive,” said Nadar.
Nadar has four children but told Radio Ergo that her husband took the children away from her because of her condition.