Fistula Counselling

Hoodo, A light of Hope

By Gwayi Patrick, Communications Officer, World Vision Somali Programme & Lillian Kemunto, Senior Communication Manager, World Vision Somali Programme

It is an ambitious dream for a village mid-wife to see women's dignity restored after a fierce, shameful and isolating battle with fistula. Hoodo Hassan Mohamed, a qualified midwife and nurse, works with World Vision to support the vulnerable women in Somaliland.  As a midwife, she is in charge of prenatal care at Ali Hussein Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) settlement in Burao District, Somaliland. She is known and respected by local women as the hero who helps to restore dignity to women suffering from Obstetric Fistula.

Hoodo Hassan (R) visits Khadra
Hoodo Hassan (R) visits Khadra  Caateeye, a fistula survivor for post-treatment counselling (photo by Gwayi Patrick/February 28, 2020)

Obstetric fistula is a significant health problem that has adverse physical, social, economic and psychological effects on affected women and girls in Ali Hussein IDP.

It remains a dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition that causes untold pain and suffering. The condition has a social dimension where women with fistula suffer overwhelming stigma and in traditional Somali society, most women with this condition are either divorced or ostracized.

“In 2018, I came across an advertisement from World Vision for a midwife position. This fell perfectly in line with my passion and expertise. I was lucky to land the job and through working for World Vision I was able to reach many women than before,” Hoodo explains.

On a normal day, when she doesn’t have an expectant mother to attend to, Hoodo visits the village and interacts with women by giving them words of encouragement and counsel especially to fistula survivors. She understands very well the complications of fistula and advocates that every expectant mother delivers at a hospital to avert this complication.

Hoodo conducting a counselling session to a group of fistula survivors
Hoodo conducting a counselling session to a group of fistula survivors in Ali Hussein IDP camp (photo by Gwayi Patrick/February 28, 2020)

Hoodo works with a team of two other women and their phone numbers are widely shared in the village. They get calls even from neighbouring villages for prenatal and fistula cases for support.

“ We understand the condition needs a qualified specialized doctor, therefore, we refer them to Burao Hospital where they will get free treatment and after that, I follow up on the fistula survivors to give them further counselling,” she says.

“Survivors of fistula face many challenges. Many were divorced by their husbands, disowned by their families and society and this leaves them with stigma. Treating alone cannot win this battle and that’s why I visit the survivors from time to time to provide post-treatment counselling,” Hoodo adds.

Khadra, who is a fistula survivor explains how she dealt with her ordeal and how she got help from Hoodo: “I developed fistula during the birth of my twin babies at home without a qualified midwife and proper medical facility. I suffered shame and thought there was no solution. I thought I will die, but someone told me about Hoodo and how she’s helping other women with my condition. Because of the help I got from Hoodo, I managed to go for a surgery at Burao hospital for free. That was the beginning of my strong friendship with Hoodo.”

Hoodo Hassan (L) counselling Khadra (R)
Hoodo Hassan (L) counselling Khadra (R) at her homestead in Ali Hussein IDP camp, Somaliland (photo by Gwayi Patrick/February 28, 2020)

World Vision’s Fistula Support Programme has enabled access to corrective surgery to more than 300 women in Burao District in Somaliland. As a result, these women have been re-integrated into society and some broken marriages have been restored. Awareness creation and income generation among the survivors of the obstetric fistula was also initiated. Through the project, World Vision established 12 Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) groups contributing to the socio-economic status of women in the villages.

Even though the programme has come to an end due to funding, Hoodo and her team are still very passionate and continue to offer their support to the vulnerable women in need of their support in the village.

Sharing what her desire is, Hoodo says she believes in women empowerment and women supporting one another to achieve their full potential.

Hoodo Hassan and Khadra at Ali Hussein IDP Camp
Hoodo Hassan and Khadra at Ali Hussein IDP Camp, Somaliland, pose to show support for equality to mark International Women’s day .(photo by Gwayi Patrick/February 28, 2020)