For 50 years, Kellen Mugoha lived a miserable life. When she was 24, and having her second child, she experienced a prolonged labour that would later cause her injuries that resulted into fistula.
“I could not control my stool and urine and would smell all the time. I told my late husband to marry another woman because he had isolated me due to the smell. My husband wanted more children yet I could not have them,” Mugoha says.
Obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder, which is caused by prolonged obstructed labour. When a woman develops fistula, she leaks urine and faeces uncontrollably.
Two weeks ago, Mugoha, now 70, was one of 100 beneficiaries of a free fistula repair programme that was conducted at Kisiizi Hospital, in Rukungiri District.
The health camp was led by Dr Francis Banya from the same hospital, with support from World Vision Uganda and Barclays Bank.
Dr Banya says fistula remains a huge problem in the Kigezi sub region because of several factors, including child marriages and births that are not attended to by trained health workers.
“We made a call for women with fistula to come for treatment, expecting about 50 mothers, but more than 100 have turned up. We have worked on 50 so far, and we shall work on the other 50 in the coming week,” said Dr Banya.
He added: “All the patients we have registered have either not gone beyond Primary Six level education, or have never been to school all together. It is this high illiteracy levels that are fuelling the problem,” he notes.
Geoffrey Babughirana, the maternal and newborn health specialist at World Vision Uganda, says together with Barclays Bank, they raised $19,000 (about Shs47m) to aid the free surgery.
“We shall continue to look for resources to ensure more mothers who suffer like this get treated,”Babughirana says.
Kisiizi Hospital administrator, Moses Mugume, says each operation costs Shs450,000.
Agnes Kiiza, 25, a single mother of two who is also one of the beneficiaries of the free surgery, says she developed fistula after giving birth to her first child. After she got her second child, her husband abandoned her because she was constantly leaking and smelling.
“I thank the management of the hospital. I have been a social outcast for a long time. Now I can go back home and interact with the community,” she says.
Kisiizi Hospital is a 250-bed capacity health facility, which serves a population of about 300,000, with some patients coming from as far as Rwanda and Tanzania.
The hospital provides a wide range of community-based initiatives, including generating its own electricity, which it then sells to the community at a subsidised fee.
It was founded by Dr John Sharp, a missionary doctor in 1958, and later taken over by the Church of Uganda.