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After 40 years of suffering and shame because of fistula, finally a respite

Marguerite Sindabakwira has suffered 40 years from Obstretic Fistula.
She endured pain,shame,stigma,isolation before she could go to
​​​​Urumuri Center for surgery.
Photo UNFPA Burundi/Queen BM Nyeniteka

"For 40 years, I lived with obstetric fistula and that's all I have got from life", shares with tears Marguerite Sinzobakwira, a 63-year-old woman met in the Urumuri Center waiting for surgery.

Marguerite Sinzobakwira has lived 40 years of calvary, 40 years of isolation, 40 years of solitude, 40 years of confusion and shame for having obstetric fistula since her first pregnancy. Indeed, at 20 years old, she is forced by her family to marry a man aged around seventy as she testifies. She gets pregnant 3 years later, but at the end of her pregnancy, she loses her baby and few days after, she realized she can no longer hold her stool. She wonders what's going on and ends up learning that she has obstetric fistula. Living in Bugenyuzi in Karusi province, she can only accept what happened. However, she is supported by her husband, unlike many other fistulous women, because he wanted her to be treated. Unfortunately, her husband falls seriously ill because of his age and Marguerite has just one choice: to accept living with obstetric fistula and to deal first with her very suffering husband.

With the death of her husband, the ordeal gets worse

"My husband never left me alone because of obstetric fistula. He was my only hope and my ordeal got worse when the illness prevailed and he died. I found myself lonely, suffering from obstetric fistula and 40 years later I still have no one at my side ", says Marguerite. She indicates that her stepdaughters have always refused to help her to go to the Urumuri cCenter in Gitega province to seek treatment on the grounds that she was not their mother and that she hadn't children with their father, she is a perfect stranger to them. In addition to her stepdaughters, Marguerite has experienced her neighborhood’s rejection. For 40 years she did not receive visits to her home and did not go to Mass anymore.

"I have always experienced rejection because of obstetric fistula. During those 40 years, I did not go to Mass any more, not that I didn't want to pray but just because of the smells I released and nobody stayed by my side. It's very embarrassing to see people get up each time you approach or to see them plugging their nose as you pass, you end up isolating yourself. In the neighborhood, nobody came to visit me, I had become like a curse ", adds Marguerite.

Surgery for free supported by Urumuri Center and its partners including UNFPA

At the moment she least expects it, Marguerite sees the end of her tunnel. A woman comes to visit her. The latter had learned that Marguerite suffers from obstetric fistula. She understands enormously the ordeal that Marguerite lives, because she herself suffered from obstetric fistula and was treated in Urumuri Center during the campaign organized in summer 2018. She promises to accompany her to Gitega, at Urumuri Center, the only one center treating obstetric fistula. Marguerite Sindabakwira is now happy because she hopes to recover quickly. "Trough years, i've lost hope to be treated one day, I had resigned myself to my fate, even if I tried several times to save too little money to get me the ticket for Gitega. Now I can smile because I'm in good hands; soon I will be treated and I will finally recover my dignity", rejoices Marguerite.

Obstetric fistula is treatable and curable! However, prevention is paramount, especially by ending early pregnancy. In fact, in Burundi, 58 out of every 1,000 young girls aged between 15 and 19 have already had a child. Prevention will also be possible through the elimination of unwanted pregnancies through family planning and access to quality maternal care including emergency obstetric care. For UNFPA, no woman or girl, like Marguerite, should be deprived of her dignity, hopes and dreams. "Fistula is a human rights violation- end it now!”, said Dr Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director

By Queen BM Nyeniteka