Seventeen-year-old Gani Adan not only lost her baby, but was divorced by her husband, and scorned cruelly by her neighbours for 10 months whilst she suffered incontinence resulting from her traumatic first childbirth experience.
After being in labour for three days, the traditional midwives attending to her forcefully pulled the dead baby from Gani’s womb, rupturing her bladder.
The residents of Buurdhuxunle village in southern Bakool region, where she lived with her mother, started gossiping about her as word spread that she had been divorced because she could not retain her urine.
“When I suffered this problem, I fell into shock. My husband couldn’t bear to be with me so that was how I was divorced. People used to gossip about my condition, they would say that this girl can’t hold back her urine and that is why she was divorced,” she said.
On 30 November, Gani received free fistula surgery in Luq mother and child hospital in Gedo. Recuperating in bed, she recalled that the reason her husband left her was her bed wetting.
“Urine was flowing when I was brought here. I received free medicine that has improved my condition. I also underwent free surgery. Now, I am 100 per cent healthy,” she said.
Gani’s family was informed of the fistula surgery after a neighbour travelling to Luq heard a town crier announcing the service to the public. The mother and child hospital provides free treatment and food, with funding from Trócaire and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) for the surgery.
Gani was among 26 women from Bay, Bakool and Gedo regions who underwent the fistula surgery and are now recovering in hospital.
Local NGO, Socio-Economic Development and Human Rights Organisation (SEDHURO), provided nutrition, hotel and transport fares to the women being treated. SEDHURO also sent each one $100 via mobile money to help restore their bruised morale.
Fadumo Warow Hassan suffered from fistula for 14 months. She was forced to shut down her tea shop in Ceeldhanaaw village in October 2020, fearing that people would get to know of her condition.
“Only my parents and our family knew about my suffering, I hid it from the rest of the people fearing they would gossip about me, so I stayed home. My urine was flowing, so how can you work if you wet the chair you’re sitting on?” she asked.
“I just remained home as I couldn’t work. We survived on whatever we harvested from the farm,” she said. Fadumo ran the tea shop for 12 years making about 150,000 Somali shillings per day.
She was rushed to Luq hospital unconscious after two days in labour and gave birth to a dead baby.
“They pulled the baby out without operating on me. I couldn’t hold back my urine afterwards. I was told to go home and come back after four months and when I came back, I was given an injection on the shoulder and told to go back home until the doctors came,” she said.
“I was called again and informed the doctors had arrived. I was a bit worried as I didn’t have money, but I came here anyway. I have received free treatment. The bed I am sleeping on now is dry!” she said triumphantly.
Fadumo, a mother of six children, was lucky that her husband did not abandon her as many Somali men do. He has been supporting her and has been with her in the hospital for the 16 days she has been there. They left their children with the husband’s sister at home.
Physical recovery is one thing, but Gani is still reeling from the hidden pain of psychological trauma from the stigma and rejection she faced from society.
Her mother, Nurto Mohamed Ali, said Gani’s husband and his family had not even visited them since they sent her daughter home.
“I was the only one who was with her through all this. Her husband said he doesn’t want a woman suffering from fistula. He didn’t even bury his dead baby. We thank God that this surgery was a success because the relatives of her husband abandoned us when they saw her situation, but today we are successful,” she said.
Luq’s mother and child hospital offered similar free fistula surgery to 18 women last year.