Halima Haji/ One of the Women living with fistula in Dadab camp/Ahmed Abdullahi Jama/Ergo

(ERGO) – Halima Haji (not her real name), a Somali refugee living in Kenya’s Dadaab camps, has suffered from fistula for 22 years and faces a miserable life ahead of her with no immediate hope of treatment.

Halima, in her early 50s and from Afmadow in Lower Juba, has raised her children alone after being divorced by her husband. She told Radio Ergo she has encountered painful moments and suffers discrimination from people on a daily basis.

She suffers from depression as a result of her problems. Financially she is burdened by having to spend around 5,000 Kenya shillings ($50) on diapers and sanitary materials.  She feels she will never be rid of the burden upon her.

“Imagine being someone who needs money to take care of her urine and stool leaking and is still unsure when the problem will end,” she said.

Halima is never allowed to forget her suffering as she goes about her day-to-day business and chores in the camp.

“If I touch the water tap, they wash it off,” she said.  “If you have some issues with someone, they tell you your clothes stink and your hands are dirty.  When my sons play football with other boys they are sometimes taunted about their mother having fistula and they get involved in fights.” 

She has had three unsuccessful operations in Nairobi and Garissa.  She was one of 19 women whose surgery was sponsored by International Rescue Committee, but only three women who had recently contracted fistula were successfully operated.  

Halima is one of more than 40 women in the refugee camps, whose fistula conditions cannot be treated in Kenya.

The women are enrolled at Dadaab hospital in Hagardhere camp, where they get routine medication for sickness, but there is no specialist care available.

Amino Abdulqadir Ali, chairman of Together Women Group, advocating for women’s rights, told Radio Ergo the women living with fistula need special care and psychological support that they do not get in the camps.

“Whenever a woman with fistula approaches others she changes her course. She thinks the people will smell the urine odour when she gets close,” Amino said.  “When there are meetings, you see them sitting separately from the rest, and when you greet them they move off immediately.”

Some of the women affected gave birth in the rural areas of Somalia without any assistance. Others gave birth in the camps but ignored the awareness programmes urging pregnant mothers to seek assistance and give birth in the free camp hospitals.



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