Tadelech suffered for almost fifty years with an untreated fistula injury.
Living in a remote village in Ale Woreda (district), Tadelech lost her parents when she was quite young. She got married soon after and became pregnant. Tadelech endured an agonising week-long labour at home before a traditional birth attendant was called to help her.
Tadelech recalls: “It was Tuesday when the woman who was supposed to help me came, after a week of suffering from labour pain. She inserted her hand into my body, took out the dead body of my baby, and told my family to bury it.”
Immediately afterwards, grieving the loss of her baby, Tadelech could not control her body waste. Her husband divorced her. She began living with her sister, but she didn’t stay long. Her sister did not know how to look after her and could not afford to keep her.
Tadelech struggled to find somewhere else to live. She was not welcomed anywhere because of her condition. She began doing household chores for people in her village. She told us: “I used to make injera and wash clothes for people in my village but people are not willing to offer me a job because of the smell that comes from my incontinence.”
A cure at last
After 47 long years of suffering and isolation, Tadelech’s brother helped her find the cure she had been praying for.
He heard about the childbirth injury of obstetric fistula at an awareness talk by the Project Zero team at a nearby public gathering. He told Tadelech that treatment was available for her condition and helped bring her to Hamlin’s Metu Fistula Hospital.
Here, Tadelech was warmly welcomed and received life-changing surgery to cure her from her fistula injury.
Project Zero is finding more women like Tadelech
Tadelech is the seventh woman with a decades-long fistula injury to be found in Ale Woreda (district) during the pilot of Project Zero.
Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s most ambitious program in decades, Project Zero was launched in March 2023. This ground-breaking new program is accelerating the eradication of obstetric fistula in Ethiopia by adopting a woreda (district) by woreda approach.
The pilot in Ale Woreda concluded in October and was hugely successful. In this one woreda, teams of Hamlin-trained community volunteers carried out a total of 14,664 house-to-house surveys in 24 weeks – searching for women hidden away with childbirth injuries. Most household members had not heard about obstetric fistula before and were eager to learn more about it.
Awareness-raising activities included FM radio announcements and spreading the word at markets, schools, community gatherings, conferences for pregnant mothers and through meetings and workshops with religious and community leaders and health care providers.
Ale Woreda will shortly be declared obstetric fistula-free.
Using learnings around the impact and efficacy of this pilot, Project Zero will be implemented in two more woredas in the first half of 2024 and in further woredas every two months thereafter.
Click here to learn more about Project Zero.