Celebrating Nur Jaham and the Many Other Fistula Survivors on the International Day to End…
By Jessica Bowers, Director of Grants Program
Nur Jaham is 30 years old and a mother to three children, living in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Both of Nur’s last two pregnancies ended with the loss of the babies due to complications from obstructed labor. During her last delivery, Nur was in labor for over 24 hours, assisted only by an unskilled village birth attendant. With the obstruction, Nur not only lost her baby, she also developed a fistula.
Fistula occurs all over the world in places where women end up in prolonged obstructed labor because they lack timely access to skilled care. Girls are particularly at risk for obstetric fistula, because their young bodies are not developed enough to carry and deliver babies. Fistula has long since been eradicated in the United States and other industrialized nations, but women in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia particularly, including in Cox’s Bazar, are still needlessly suffering the dual tragedies of losing a child and developing fistula, and the subsequent stigma and seclusion and devastation that the situation creates.
For five years, Nur was homebound due to the pain and embarrassment resulting from the fistula. She was increasingly isolated because of the shame associated with living with a fistula, and many of her family members abandoned her and her husband. She could not work, leave her home, care for her children, or live in the way that she wanted.
Nur had recently heard about the possibility of getting surgery to fix the fistula, but she was scared. A neighbor of Nur’s who was also suffering from obstetric fistula went to the hospital of the HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh to receive the relatively inexpensive and simple surgery that successfully closed the fistula. With its hospital and dedicated surgical team, the HOPE Foundation is a regional leader in repairing fistula, and is the only fistula provider in the southeastern region of Bangladesh.
After hearing of her neighbor’s successful surgery, Nur decided to proceed with the surgery as well. After five years of living with an obstetric fistula, her fear no longer held her back. She preferred to die rather than continue to live with the fistula. In early 2018, with transportation support from the HOPE Foundation, Nur went to the hospital and underwent the surgery to close the fistula.
Nur’s surgery was successful, and she was so happy to go back home and tell every member of the family that she is now free of fistula, and ready to restart her life. She will be able to leave her home and rejoin her community, and has also been offered a position as a cleaner in one of the HOPE Foundation’s birth centers.
Meanwhile, the HOPE Foundation continues their outreach to women in their community, training women who have recovered from fistula to reach out to other women living with fistula, educating community members about fistula and, more importantly, the importance of skilled care during pregnancy and delivery. More and more, with the HOPE Foundation’s help, women in Cox’s Bazar are getting the care they need, high-risk pregnancies are being provided this care through the HOPE Foundation’s birth centers and community-based skilled birth attendants.
Every Mother Counts has been supporting the HOPE Foundation since 2015 to provide health education, community outreach, and comprehensive pregnancy, postnatal, and newborn care in Cox’s Bazar. We have also funded the HOPE Foundation to provide emergency maternity and health care to Rohingya refugees who have resettled in Bangladesh.
Learn more about the HOPE Foundation and our other partners at everymothercounts.org.