Ritha is 52 years old. She comes from Kigoma, Northwest Tanzania.
At the age of five, Ritha developed polio and used simple, locally-made crutches.
Rita never married: men would not accept her because of her crippled condition.
At the age of around 14, Ritha delivered her first baby in 1984, with no birthing complications. Two years later, sadly, Ritha’s baby died from pneumonia. After a couple of years, in 1986 at the age of around 16, Ritha became pregnant again by another man. However, when she went into labour at home, there was no transport to take her to a hospital quickly and there was no immediate help.
After two days of being in labour at home, Ritha’s neighbours carried her to the district hospital, very far away, using a rugged, stretcher. By the time Ritha reached the hospital her baby had died in utero. The hospital removed the dead baby’s body using a simple vacuum device.
A few days later, Ritha failed to control urine and was informed that she had developed an obstetric fistula.
That was over 35 years ago.
Ritha was referred to a national hospital where she remained as an inpatient for four years and was operated on many times during that time, and was not healed. She was discharged and returned home, still leaking.
Ritha returned to the district hospital in 1991, aged about 19, and was referred to yet another hospital, where the surgeons tried again, and could not heal her fistula. She went to another facility, which also failed to heal her. So, yet again, she returned home.
Maternity Africa’s fistula outreach team traveled to Kigoma in late 2022. There, they briefly presented fistula to a group of women who were attending a local maternal healthcare clinic. One woman told Maternity Africa’s team that she knew a lady (Ritha) who had a fistula, still uncured, for many years.
The team visited Ritha at her home, and she agreed to come to Kivulini Maternity Centre for a review. In November 2022, she underwent further surgery with Maternity Africa. However, because of previous attempts to repair the fistula and the nature of her fistula, sadly it was still not possible to cure Ritha completely. We could, however, provide her with better crutches, a ‘social care pack’ of essential household items, and some psychological counseling.
Now back home, Maternity Africa’s social worker continues to follow up with Ritha by mobile phone. Because of her physical condition she struggles with simple domestic chores, such as carrying water. She cannot afford to pay people to carry water for her. A simple well would cost USD 350 (£300) and would help her immensely.
If you would like to help Ritha by funding the construction of a simple well, please follow this link. Thank you.