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Sebryi’s story: held back by pandemic, hope and determination found a way

Sebryi, 18, is from the Oromiya region of Ethiopia and grew up in a remote rural village, around two hours’ walk from the nearest main road. She had a happy childhood supporting her mother at home and looking after the family’s animals – although she did not have the opportunity to go to school. As was the custom in her village, she was married at 15.

A new arrival

Sebryi was happy and excited when a year later she became pregnant with her first child. With the nearest health clinic a two-hour walk from the village, attending her ante-natal appointments was not easy, but she attended all of them and was pleased that her pregnancy was progressing well.

She told us “When my due date was getting closer, I moved into my parents house. In my village home delivery is common and I prepared to deliver my first baby at my parents’ home, with assistance from the traditional birth attendant of our village. Until the last moment, everything had been going so smoothly”.


However, when her due date came, Sebryi laboured for two painful days – and when the baby still hadn’t come her family made the decision to make the two-hour journey to the health clinic for help, carrying her on a home-made stretcher. The next day she gave birth naturally, but tragically to a stillborn child. Sebryi’s pain was compounded when she realised she had developed a fistula and was incontinent.

She stayed at the health clinic for 11 days hoping for a cure to her injury, but the health clinic staff were not able to help, and reluctantly she returned to her parents’ home.

“Losing my baby and facing such an injury put me in great grief. I wished I could die than living in agony. I thought I would never get a cure”.

Sebryi, fistula patient

Compounded by a pandemic

She stayed with her parents for three months, and tried visiting a larger local government hospital for help, but they did not have the specialist services she needed. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Eventually we weren’t able to travel further in search for a cure because of COVID-19, and in the end I was protracted in bed for a year – a year of agony and isolation. My husband has always been by my side and supportive, but the current pandemic made life difficult for us”.

A glimmer of hope

However, in September 2020 there was a glimmer of hope for Sebryi. A church in her area was aware of two other women in the region that had also suffered fistula, and gathered all the women including Sebryi together and arranged for transport to Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.

Sebryi and other patients
Sebryi and other patients at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital

Just one week after arriving at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Sebri had had fistula surgery and was on the road to recovery. When we spoke to her for this interview her incontinence was gone, she was no longer needing to use a catheter, and was getting ready to return to her life at home in the village.

“When I knew I was cured the first person I called was my husband. At first he didn’t believe it, and then he was so happy for me. Hamlin has brought back the happiness my family had lost for a year and I can’t thank you enough for that”.

Sebryi, fistula patient
Sebryi, a patient at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia
Sebryi is now on the road to recovery after having fistula surgery

Over the year ahead, we are working to enable 1,366 surgeries for women in need, like Sebryi.  You can support our work by donating today.

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