A Lifetime of Suffering and Isolation

Woman recovering after fistula surgeryThe life of a woman suffering from gynecological fistula is one of loneliness and pain. Aside from the terrible symptoms associated with the disease, they are ostracized and shunned from all aspects of social life. One such woman is Fatoumata Traoré. Living in the Guinea-Ivory Coast border, she married at 15, and shortly thereafter became pregnant.

After carrying the baby to term, she went into labor, which lasted five days. At the end of this ordeal, she delivered a still born baby. The same happened to her five more times over the next few years. Finally, after a seventh labor, also lasting five days, she was taken to a nearby hospital, where forceps were used to assist in the birth. Fatoumata Traoré finally had a surviving child. The use of the forceps, however, caused her to develop a fistula.
Her baby taken from her and she was not allowed to attend the ceremony where her child was named, a very important rite in Guinean society. Her husband left her and she was quarantined. Around 2007, shortly after the Fistula Project began, she heard about the surgery that could radically change her life and was told that she needed only to get to Kissidougou District Hospital and she would be operated on free of charge.
In order to secure transportation to Kissindougou she begun collecting firewood and selling it at market. It took her three years to earn enough money to make the trip. In 2010, she was finally able to travel to Kissindougou, where she was operated on. Fatoumata Traoré is 60 years old. For forty years she lived with this condition, isolated from her family and neighbors. Fatoumata Traoré spoke at the ceremony on Fistula Day and thanked the people that made it possible for her to finally begin to live her life. The purpose of the Fistula Project is to keep this same tragedy from repeating over and over in Guinea and the surrounding areas.
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