Risper Ominde is a 40-year-old wife and mother to five children. During the delivery of her sixth child, Risper experienced a difficult and prolonged labour because the baby was in an abnormal position. Although Risper received a caesarian section at Siaya County Hospital, the baby did not survive and Risper was left with a debilitating condition known as obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal that causes incontinence. Although medical staff at the hospital tried to treat Risper’s incontinence with a catheter, it didn’t work and Risper was sent home after five days.
Once home, Risper was unable perform the household chores as she would normally do. Her children had to attend to the farm, collect water and go to the market. She also faced hostility from her in-laws until they began to understand obstetric fistula as a medical condition. Risper’s neighbours couldn’t understand how or why a woman of her age would urinate on herself.
“It pained my heart so much that I could no longer interact freely with people or even go the market because of how people would talk about me behind my back,” she says.
Risper decided to remain indoors for fear of embarrassment and shame.
All that changed, however, when a Community Health Worker told Risper about a free medical camp for women living with obstetric fistula that Amref Health Africa in Kenya was to hold in Siaya County in March 2018. 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. The Community Health Workers encouraged Risper to attend the medical camp to get screened so she could get the treatment she needed. A specialist at the medical camp confirmed Risper had obstetric fistula and booked her for free surgery at Siaya County Referral Hospital.
The operation to repair the obstetric fistula was successful and Risper was able to return to her daily activities. Risper says she is grateful to Amref Health Africa and the whole medical team that contributed to her recovery. She hopes to start a business to empower her and the family economically.