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Astou found renewed hope with Mercy Ships. Photo: Mercy Ships/Elizabeth Page Brumley

Astou is a woman of strong faith and courage.

You may remember the early days of the Covid-19 lockdown. The fear of leaving your house, of speaking to people on the street in case you spread a deadly virus.

It’s hard to imagine, but Astou lived like this for 20 years. She was afraid to go out and see anyone. Even on her sister’s wedding day, Astou locked herself in her room.

That’s because she lived with obstetric fistula. This was caused by a long and traumatic birth, where tragically she lost her baby boy.

Her internal injuries left her leaking urine all the time. Incontinence is hard for anyone to live with. Astou leaked when she sat down, in her bed, everywhere. She often had painful infections.

In her community, people saw Astou as unclean. Her husband abandoned her. She shut herself away from the world out of fear that she would leak and smell.

You very rarely hear of fistula in the UK. But two million women in Africa and Asia struggle to live with it. Liz, an Obstetrician Gynaecologist, volunteered on our hospital ship. “Nothing prepared me for the shame and the lack of human affection. These women have suffered the unimaginable.”

But despite everything, Astou never stopped believing in God’s love for her. She never gave up hope. “The hospital told me I needed surgery. I didn’t have the money, so I stayed at home, relying on God.”


Astou welcomed a miracle – her beautiful daughter, Sokhna. Photo: Mercy Ships/Judit Maier

Astou’s broken heart began to heal when she met Mamadou. This kind and gentle man asked her to marry him. He gave her courage that she would get better. And she welcomed a miracle as she gave birth to her beautiful daughter, Sokhna. What joy she must have felt. Nothing is impossible with God.

A few months later, Astou heard that Mercy Ships was coming to Senegal. Mamadou held her hand as she spoke to the volunteers. At long last, Astou heard the good news she had waited so many years for – she could have free surgery.

For the first time, Astou met women on the hospital ship who had spent years looking for help, just like her. She knew she wasn’t alone.

After her operation, she danced and rejoiced with her new friends onboard who also had surgery. Together, the women wore beautiful dresses in a special ceremony to reflect their God-given dignity.

Astou’s face shone like the sun. You could see she was full of happiness and joy. “The pain in my body is gone. I can’t wait to go back home to my husband and daughter feeling healthy.”

“Astou completely transformed,” says Clementine, Mercy Ships volunteer chaplain. “She is like a new person. She is living her moment right now, her moment of miracle, her moment of hope and healing.”

This amazing change is thanks to kind friends like you.


Astou smiles after the love and surgical care she received on the hospital ship. Photo: Mercy Ships/Judit Maier

Will you share your love and compassion with a woman like Astou? Your gift of £50 helps give a woman free fistula surgery – changing her life forever.

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