Danja Fistula Center Brings Hope
Salome is the first person in her Nigerien family to attend school.

Niger in África occidental

Salome is the first person in her Nigerien family to attend school.

"I came from a very poor family and I have worked hard to say that I'm the best student in my family," she said.

Her determination had twice earned her the top student award in her school. While she excelled in a variety of subjects, it had been her aspiration to become a doctor since primary school. However, these plans got side-tracked in the first year of her secondary school studies. During a school break she went to visit her grandmother's village. As in customary in some parts of the country, Salome and her sister were subjected to female circumcision by family members.

The surgery left lasting physical ailments for Salome, and because of her incontinence and shame she was not able to return to school.

"I was crying day to night," she said. "Crying crying, and I was missing my studies."

For six months she went to a doctor and took medicine, without any effect. Not prepared to give up, she continued seeking a cure. Through a series of hospital referrals, she finally arrived at SIM's Danja Fistula Center (DFC) in Niger. Her life was about to change for the better.

"I was so very happy," she said about the friendly care she received in her three weeks at DFC. She underwent a successful reconstruction surgery and was ecstatic to return home to continue her studies.

Her goal attainable once again, the experience at DFC has further confirmed Salome's desire to become a doctor.

About SIM's Danja Fistula Center

The Danja Fistula Center opened in February 2012 alongside SIM’s Center for Health and Leprosy Care–Danja (CSL Danja). The fistula center offers surgical and post-operative care to women suffering from obstetric or traumatic fistula, pelvic organ prolapse, and related ailments. The staff has helped about 1,300 women suffering from obstetric fistula since its creation. The smiles of the women restored from lives ruined by fistula are a great reward of this work!

The center is led by long-term SIM missionaries and Niger staff devoted to seeing these women go from sorrow to restoration. As part of long-term care the patients are offered vocational training in embroidery, knitting, and sewing, plus education in literacy and personal health care. Close to 400 women so far have graduated from the full 3-month program and about 200 more have been trained for 1 or 2 months. An SIM physical therapist helps women regain continence, have greater mobility, or even walk again after nerve damage suffered during childbirth. This is a supplement to surgeries, because in some cases the fistula is closed by the surgery, but the woman remains incontinent until the therapist works with the patient on muscle strength. An SIM clinical psychologist offers onsite trauma healing groups and counseling for the social and emotional trauma of fistula.