Gynocare Fistula Center — a nongovernmental organization in Western Kenya providing reproductive health services to women—began under the dynamic and dedicated leadership of Dr. Hillary Mabeya in 2009. Since becoming the first specialized fistula surgeon in the region in 2003, Dr. Mabeya has improved the lives of hundreds of women who have been suffering from obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged and obstructed labor, and aiding in their reintegration back into their communities.
As a remarkable man who embarked on his course of transformative work as an obstetrician gynecologist more than fifteen years ago, the story of Dr. Mabeya showcases one amazing individual that Direct Relief has the privilege of working with to restore health and hope to women living with this condition.
Beginning in West Pokot as a newly trained medical doctor, Dr. Hillary Mabeya noted a significant number of women coming to the hospital with obstetric fistula, including symptoms of constant leaking of urine and sometimes feces, and in desperate need of assistance.
At the time, there was nothing to be done except send the women home and tell them to wait—usually one year—until a visiting surgeon from Nairobi was available to come to the hospital for a few days to provide treatment. For Dr. Mabeya, meeting these women only to send them away in such an unfortunate state was the turning point when he decided to take a stand to help these women lead more dignified lives.
Dr. Mabeya set to work obtaining his Master’s in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Nairobi University, while also training in fistula repair under pioneering surgeons and later at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, the preeminent center for fistula repair and training.
Throughout the years, Dr. Mabeya has remained committed to treating women in Western Kenya and at hospitals around the country, but because of the ever-constant number of women seeking fistula repair; the inability of existing health facilities to meet the demand; and his passion and ability to do something about it, Dr. Mabeya was motivated to think even bigger.
In 2009, Dr. Mabeya committed to opening the Gynocare health facility while simultaneously undertaking a PhD at Ghent University in Belgium, and constructing his family’s home in Eldoret. Jokingly, Dr. Mabeya refers to this remarkably busy, yet exciting, period as part of his mid-life crisis.
Dr. Mabeya remains humble and gracious in acknowledging the many donors and supporters that have made Gynocare a reality. “I am most grateful for the kind donation and this will most be useful as we start fistula surgeries and care of fistula patients,” said Dr. Mabeya when the first shipment of medicines and supplies was received from Direct Relief. “The donation has come at the right time when we are embarking on starting surgeries.”
With a fistula ward full of women, the needs are numerous and the experiences are deeply moving; from a sweet 15-year-old young girl who obtained the condition as a devastating result of an arranged marriage and no access to care during pregnancy and delivery, to an 83-year-old woman who has lived her life with the condition after being told for decades there was no hope for treatment.
Gynocare is one of ten fistula repair facilities in seven countries Direct Relief supports works with to bolster local efforts to treat women living with obstetric fistula. Direct Relief is pleased to count Gynocare Fistula Center as one of our partners, and Dr. Mabeya is always appreciative: “I am serious when I say because of Direct Relief we were able to open Gynocare and start performing surgeries. When we had the supplies we needed, we knew that we could start.”