I am proud to see a smile on Leah’s face

Words and Photos by Edina Kalikali, a fistula ambassador, living in Magu District, Mwanza Region.

Leah Philipo takes care of her five goats which help her generate some income her Image by Edina Kalikali, a fistula ambassador, Amref Health Africa  Tanzania.

Leah Philipo is a mother of five and an entrepreneur from Mahaha village, Magu District, Mwanza Region, Tanzania. She lived with fistula for over ten years.

How Leah’s ordeal began with fistula

This all began in 1999 when Leah was pregnant with her first child. Leah explains how she one day woke up to very distressing pain and how she struggled to find a hospital that could help her. Her first stop was at Mahaha Health Centre because that was the nearest place for her to get to in such urgency. But due to her complications the health center wasn’t able to facilitate her and thus she was moved to Kabila Health Centre. Unfortunately, Kabila Health Centre also couldn’t assist her so she went to Magu Hospital. 

At Magu Hospital Leah delivered her child but sadly the baby died. Leah explains that this was such a difficult time for her and things changed ever since. After a day or so, Leah started experiencing urine leakage and it was completely uncontrollable.

Stigma around fistula.

Leah was stigmatized by the people close to her. Her in-laws wanted her out of their lives and pushed her away. Leah’s husband decided to build a house elsewhere so that they can relocate to a place away from her in-laws. Due to her condition, Leah’s husband decided to marry another wife, leaving Leah alone in the new house. Over time Leah’s husband couldn’t support both wives which made Leah’s situation even more difficult. During this time Leah was isolated from her community and hardly got involved in any social gatherings. “Everyone moved away from me because of my condition,” says Leah. With no one to support her, Leah reached out to her brother. “He’s the only one who took me in and didn’t stigmatize me,” she says.

Light at the end of a tunnel.

Leah remembers the day she met with Jumanee Charles, a fistula ambassador who at the time lived in the same village as her. She heard about Jumanne’s work and that he was advocating for fistula treatment, this made her reach out and open up to him regarding her condition. Jumanee didn’t waste any further time: after a long chat, he reassured Leah that her condition is treatable and completely free of any charges. Upon receiving this news Leah made the trip to Bugando Hospital for her treatment. While there she was warmly received and underwent successful surgery. Today Leah is back home fully healed and living with her family.

Leah Philipo (in light blue clothe) with her family, Image by Edina Kalikali, a fistula ambassador, Amref Health Africa  Tanzania.

As an ambassador, I am proud to see a smile on Leah’s face and back to normal. I will keep raising awareness regarding fistula in my community.

Amref Fistula program is a partnership between Amref Health Africa UK, Amref Health Africa Tanzania, Magu Poverty Focus on Older People Rehabilitation Centre (MAPERECE), CCBRT, and Bugando Medical Centre, funded by The National Lottery Community Fund. Since the beginning of the project in June 2019 to date, the project has provided 165/180 fistula surgical repairs, which are funded by another donor out of which, 143 already received entrepreneurship training and 143 were provided with seed capital to start income-generating activities as part of the social-economic empowerment. A few who did not receive seed capital had relocated from the project area and could not be easily reached.