Addendum: Outreach Extension - Lets pay for a Third Op!
Due to people's astounding generosity and the promise of more donations, we are pleased to extend this outreach to, if possible, to pay for a third operation; that of a 21 year old young woman called Spiwe. She, like Fungai and Blessing, suffered a VVF after a protracted labour in which she also lost her baby. She did not get any reconstructive surgery and now suffers from urine incontinence. The operation she needs is to repair the VVF which might involve having a urostomy fitted but it will at least enable her to lead something approaching a normal life.
For a little bit of extra context, here is a link to a piece written by Chumile Jamela for the Global Press Institute, republished in Newsday, a Zim paper. The initial story echoes very much the situation of Spiwe, a sufferer of the awful sounding 'urine curse'.
Please read this piece and continue to support us by donating, if you can afford to, or by spreading the link to this outreach page.
Please keep reading below for more background on the Fistula problem in Zimbabwe and the two young women, Fungai and Blessing who we are in the process of helping. (Fungai's op is scheduled for 9th May and Blessing is coming to town to get prepped.)
We are trying to raise money for two young women to have vital surgery to end awful suffering caused by sub-standard post-natal care in Zimbabwe’s desperately underfunded healthcare system. The intended surgeries involve issues that are still difficult to talk about in any culture but particularly over here in Zimbabwe's superstitious rural communities. This is why we are looking to the wider world community to help us raise the needed funds.
Brief Stories of the Two Young Women we're aiming to help.
1) The first concerns a young woman called Fungai (normally a boys name in Zimbabwe) who is now 23 years old and is suffering greatly thanks to botched surgery following a long labour (her first) in which, after 8 days, she lost her child and suffered a vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF) when the internal barriers between the bladder/urinary system and the vagina/reproductive system rupture.
In the surgery that followed, she had a urostomy fitted so her urine comes out the side into a bag (which is how she came to our attention), but also, for some unknown reason, the surgeon sewed up her vagina, a totally unneeded procedure.
Her uterus, miraculously is still in tact so she could feasibly still have a child were she able to conceive, which of course, is mechanically impossible in this state. The husband tried for some time to continue relations apparently making a hole the size of a ballpoint pen and causing Fungai enormous pain. He is now apparently spending more and more time away.
There is a deep stigma attached to this kind of problem in rural communities here, with the concept of being 'cursed' very much alive.
As there is no free public health care in Zimbabwe, she would have to pay a sizable, and for her impossible, amount of money to have corrective surgery. The figure quoted is in the region of USD 500 (about £320).
There are countless tales of woe here and in the rest of Zimbabwe, and its quite possible in another part of Africa that this sum could save a life, but Fungai's is still a young life and for the last five years she has suffered a lot. There are many years of her life left and she would be spared further pain and stigma, as well as, hopefully, being re-given the gift of motherhood, if should could have this procedure.
2) The second case painful case we've come across recently is young woman called Blessing who like Fungai had a terrible labour, losing her child and suffering both a VVF and an RVF (recto-vaginal fistula).
[NB: VVFs and RVFs are sadly not that uncommon in rural Africa. When a labour starts without the rectum and bladder being emptied, the babies head will then block the passage of stool and water. If the the labour lasts for days, the build-up will then rupture internal membranes causing serious internal injuries and sometimes death. In these cases ,the child is usually stillborn as well.]
She was treated briefly in a medical centre before being sent home without any reconstructive surgery. Miraculously she has survived for three years but passes faecal matter and urine out of her vagina. She is deemed cursed and lives alone in a little hut on the edge of her village.
In cases like this, the public hospital will sometimes offer a free operation but it rarely happens because it requires a an unlikely conincidence of at least three major players (the surgeon, anaethetist and senior nurse/2nd surgeon) all being available at the same time and willing to forgo payment at the same time.
Twice, Blessing has been admitted to hospital and told she is going to have the operation and both time she has been sent home without it. One stay lasted three months! Every day or every other day she told her operation had been postponed. Six months after being sent home she was admitted again, only to stay one month in hospital with the same result - daily postponements and disappointment.
Blessing has basically given up on ever having her operation. It would cost USD 600 (c£385) to have the operation completed in a timely manner and put an end to her unimaginably awful condition.
PS: Fungai will go first, simply because she is prepped and ready to go and in Harare. We have a quote for her op and a potential date. Blessing is still in her village and arranging for her operation will take a little longer (2-3 weeks).
Background: My name is Andrew Strang and I'm on a 6 month stint with a small UK Charity called the Whinfield Charitable Trust (Whinfield.org) which supports the Stomaltherapy clinic in Harare. The funds donated via this outreach is separate from the charities accounts and will go straight to pay for Fungai and Blessing's operations. Only surplus donations will go to the WCT (which, of course, is still a great cause!).