Bashira: Surviving Fistula in Tanzania

When I had an opportunity to write about women who made an impact on the Global Goal of Health (Number 3 of the 17!), one of the organizations I learned about during my research was CCBRT (Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania). CCBRT, a locally registered NGO, is the largest indigenous provider of disability services in Tanzania. CCBRT empowers people with disabilities and their families, improves their quality of life, and ensures access to medical and rehabilitative treatment. CCBRT is also a leading partner of the Government of Tanzania in the fight to improve the quality of maternal and newborn healthcare in the country. This #GivingTuesday, I am sharing their story.

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The CCBRT Facility

The best way to learn about CCBRT is to get acquainted with someone for whom CCBRT has been a life changer. Bashira (whose name has been changed to ensure her privacy) is one of those “someones.”

Bashira was 17-years-old and working as a field laborer in Tanzania when she became pregnant. In the months leading up to her delivery, she did everything she was supposed to, attending antenatal appointments and preparing for the birth of her child.

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When the labor pains began, Bashira’s grandmother called a Traditional Birth Attendant to assist her granddaughter through the delivery, but there was a complication. After two days of labor, Bashira went to the hospital where medical teams rushed to perform an emergency C-section. They were too late. Her newborn son only lived for one hour.

Two days after she lost her baby, Bashira started leaking urine. Her doctors diagnosed the leaking as a birth injury, obstetric fistula; a condition Bashira had never heard of, and couldn’t afford to have corrected.

“I felt depressed; I felt like my heart was heavy,” she says, now 21-years-old.

Three years passed, and the chronic incontinence forced Bashira into isolation. Her parents remained supportive, but her friends, other relatives, and community abandoned her.

“I couldn’t go to work,” she remembers. “I couldn’t go to church, I couldn’t talk to my friends; they ignored me.”

Bashira was isolated from the friends she desperately needed: except for one. This year, one of her friends saw an advertisement on the side of a bus for CCBRT, one of the leading providers of fistula treatment in Tanzania. Every year CCBRT changes the lives of over 1 million people by providing healthcare services, training local medical teams, strengthening the existing infrastructure, and piloting advocacy and health education programs in Tanzanian communities.

After calling CCBRT, Bashira’s bus ticket was paid for by one of CCBRT’s Fistula Ambassadors, as part of their innovative TransportMyPatient Program. A few days later, Bashira arrived safely at the hospital in Dar es Salaam for surgery. She also received physiotherapy, health education, and counseling to address the emotional and psychological trauma she had suffered as a result of her condition. Every stage of Bashira’s treatment and rehabilitation was provided free of charge. She now wants to study to become a doctor or lawyer when she returns home. Thanks to a life changing procedure, Bashira has the confidence to aim high, and look towards a brighter future.

There are thousands like Bashira who need our help.

Tanzania has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in the world. Estimates suggest that one woman will die every hour from birth-related complications. For every woman that dies, 20 more women will develop an infection or debilitating impairment. By improving the quality of care available to expectant mothers and their newborns we can prevent the tragic loss of life and years of silent suffering. The cost of the surgery that restored Bashira’s future was $750. The cost to have a trained team assist with her delivery would have been $215. An investment in prevention makes sense.

How can you help?

Kupona Foundation is the US-based sister organization of CCBRT, mobilizing resources and activating awareness to enable the continuation of CCBRT’s life changing programs. Kupona Foundation gives individuals and institutions in the United States the opportunity to foster direct, local impact, empowering people like Bashira to realize their full potential by improving their access to quality healthcare. From 2009 to 2014, Kupona mobilized nearly $1.5 million for CCBRT.

As of December 1st, Kupona is participating in a competition through the GlobalGiving.org page, with up to $3,000 of bonus funds available. Their goal this month is to raise $10,000 to support CCBRT, and provide safe deliveries for over 45 mothers in Tanzania.

As they kick off the holiday season, they ask that you stand with them to provide the mothers and newborns of Tanzania with the healthcare they need and deserve. The beginning of Bashira’s story has been the status quo for too long; your support can change that.

Kupona Foundation is a 501(c)(3) registered non-profit. Donations to Kupona Foundation are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Please visit www.kuponafoundation.org to learn more about our work, and check out our social media pages on Twitter and Facebook. You can contact us directly for more information at info@kuponafoundation.org.

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4 thoughts on “Bashira: Surviving Fistula in Tanzania

  1. What an incredible organization, Paula, and one that touched my heart. I love that they help people with disabilities. This beautiful young woman’s story broke my heart for what she endured yet then received a great gift. It is so unfortunate about the statistics on what’s happening to other women like her.

    Thank you for writing this post to bring to light this wonderful organization. You are an amazing person,, Paula, and I am glad to know you.

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