Barbara May Fundraiser to Save Young Mothers (and some older ones too), in Africa

Barbara May Fundraiser to Save Young Mothers (and some older ones too), in Africa Image supplied by Barbara May Foundation. Andrew Browning Operating Theatre

It is unimaginable for us in Australia, but most of the world does not have access to adequate maternal healthcare.

In Africa alone, more than 2 million women are suffering from what is called obstetric fistula. An obstetric fistula*, or internal tearing or holes, result from obstructed childbirth where a doctor is not available to perform a caesarean section. This is unheard of in Australia or any Western nation. It is a debilitating, embarrassing and isolating condition because the mothers are left leaking urine and often faeces for the rest of their lives, unless they get treatment from doctors and nurses from places like the Barbara May Foundation (BMF).

Dr Andrew Browning is the medical director at the Barbara May Foundation and lived for nearly 20 years in Africa and has operated on 7,000 fistula patients! Today, he lives in Australia but flies back to Africa several times a year to continue his vital work and training more African doctors in the art of fistula repair. Dr Andrew takes up the story:

“Regina, a young Tanzanian woman, delivered her fifth child in her family home three months ago. Sadly, she got into obstructed labour and after three days of labour she delivered a stillborn child. She sustained a fistula to her bladder, leaking uncontrollably, smelling, and ashamed. To make things worse her husband died of a sudden illness.

Regina also deteriorated, with infections, was losing weight and had lost a lot of blood during delivery. Her father collected some money to take her to the next village to be seen by the witch doctor. The Barbara May Foundation’s outreach team was in the area and, praise God, met her on the way to the witch doctor. Regina was assessed and treated, reassured that she could be cured at the BMF Kivulini maternity hospital in Arusha, Tanzania. Her father, seeing her get better following the initial out of hospital treatment from BMF staff called the hospital and transport was arranged. It took six weeks for her to get strong enough to be operated on. Dr Mbise from the hospital treated her in March and she is well on her way to recovery with no more leakage of urine 24 hours a day.”

Regina in Kivulini hospital Tanzania. Image supplied: Barbara May Foundation

Drs Tesha and Mbise_c. Image supplied: Barbara May Foundation

And it is not just the young mums who are helped by the teams of nurses and doctors in our Australian-supported hospitals in Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan and soon in Uganda.

Adut, who lives in small South Sudan village, is now about 70. She was married in her teenage years, soon became pregnant and then tried to deliver her baby in her mothers-in-law’s hut. There were no hospitals nearby and she stayed in labour for four days (some mother’s labour unaided for up to 10 days). Eventually Adut delivered a stillborn child and barely alive herself, she started leaking uncontrollably from her bladder as she sustained a fistula. Usually, the husband immediately divorces his wife, but remarkably her husband stayed with her, lovingly caring for her when she was too ashamed to go out. He took her to local healers and doctors, but no one really knew what the problem was and she was told that it would just get better by itself. She waited for 40 years for it to get better, but it never did.

Adut. Image supplied: Barbara May Foundation

Eventually a Christian mission found her, and she was told she could get treated in Juba (the capital city of South Sudan). The mission helped her to get to the Lutheran-run, and Barbara May supported, hospital in Juba where she was operated on. She had her first dry day in over 40 years the day after the operation and she was delighted the urine flow down her legs had stopped after such a long period.

On May 24 Orange residents are invited to attend the inaugural fundraiser for the Barbara May Foundation, an Australian-run charity established for the prevention and curing of obstetric *fistula in the women of Africa,” Dr Browning concluded.

Guest speaker at the fundraiser will be leading international obstetric surgeon Dr Andrew Browning (AM).

Dr Browning, who has recently returned from operating in Africa, said the fundraiser will be held at Duntryleague Orange from 6.30pm on Wednesday 24th May.

To book and for more information see this link here.

For further enquiries email: or call Sue Knox on mob: 0400 620 960


*Fistulas are unnatural holes between organs such as the vagina, bowel, rectum and bladder caused by the trauma of obstructed childbirth. Frequently both mother and child die. If the mother survives, she is left with malodorous urine and faeces leaking from bodily cavities for the rest of her life. Depression and suicide often follow. It is estimated 2 million African women alone are now isolated suffering fistulae today.

For more information:



  • Adut. Image supplied: Barbara May Foundation

  • Regina in Kivulini hospital Tanzania. Image supplied: Barbara May Foundation

  • Image supplied: Australian Surgeon Dr Andrew Browning AM operating in Africa

  • Drs Tesha and Mbise_c. Image supplied: Barbara May Foundation

  • Kivulini hospital. Image supplied: Barbara May Foundation