We work to provide treatment for women suffering from obstetric fistula in underdeveloped nations so they can regain their health and lives.
Many women with fistula suffer for years or decades before they are able to receive treatment. Fortunately for Beatrice, who was 16 when she developed fistula, it was less than a month. Stories like hers are what drive our work at Fistula Foundation.
Beatrice labored at home for two days, because the hospital was too far away from her village. When her situation became life-threatening she was taken to the hospital. Her baby was stillborn and she had started leaking urine uncontrollably.
Hospital staff had recently received training in obstetric fistula management sponsored by Fistula Foundation and our partner, Direct Relief. Recognizing her condition, they quickly helped Beatrice arrange for surgery at a nearby hospital.
Beatrice’s fistula surgery was successful and she is no longer leaking urine. Most of all, she is happy to be back in school.
Thanks to the quick referral from health workers trained to recognize her condition, Beatrice did not suffer the severe stigma and isolation that far too many women with fistula endure.
Fistula Foundation is dedicated to ending the suffering caused by the childbirth injury of obstetric fistula. While fistula was largely eradicated in developed countries more than a century ago, today it remains prevalent in poverty-stricken and remote areas of sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where too many women give birth at home without access to modern medical care or emergency obstetric services.
More than 500,000 women suffer the devastating effects of obstetric fistula, and that number grows by another 30,000-50,000 every single year. The nature of this challenge is great, and as we work to end the suffering caused by obstetric fistula, nonprofit, corporate and coalition partners are a critical piece of our success.
Due to the lack of access to obstetric care, many women in developing nations are at extremely high risk of developing obstetric fistula and many challenges need to be overcome in order to combat fistula. A major barrier to providing high-quality fistula treatment has been the lack of appropriate facilities in which to conduct the operations. Equipment is often insufficient as are the medical supplies, and there is a general lack of trained personnel capable of carrying out the surgery as well as pre- and post-operative care. Furthermore, the stigma surrounding fistula means that even when fistula services exist, substantial efforts are required within local communities to encourage women to come forward for treatment.
By providing free surgery to women suffering from obstetric fistula, their lives will be fundamentally changed for the better. Left untreated, an obstetric fistula can ruin a woman’s life: a woman with fistula is often left by her husband, ostracized by her community and left to fend for herself because others cannot stand her smell. However, when she has access to fistula repair, a woman’s life is transformed; she no longer has to suffer the shame and embarrassment caused by her incontinence and she can resume living a healthy and productive life. These surgeries truly better women’s lives.
Additionally, we are focused on helping remove one of the key bottlenecks to treatment: the lack of surgeons trained to treat the range of fistula patients’ injuries. That’s why our funding also supports the training of local fistula surgeons and healthcare professionals in order to ensure a sustainable method of significantly increasing the number of operations performed in regions with the heaviest burden of fistula, and thus offer women with fistula the opportunity to return to a normal and healthy life.
Fistula Foundation is committed to expanding the number of women receiving life-transforming treatment. Our goal is to increase the number of women treated globally. We are constantly driven by the nature of this great challenge. For every woman that we are able to help, there are 50 more like her who remain in need of surgery because of a shortage of trained surgeons. We are also keenly aware of the needs of our partners in the field, who face challenges that vary widely depending on local conditions and their country’s political, economic and social development. But we are deeply committed to their work and strive to do all we can to support their efforts to heal women who are suffering from obstetric fistula in new and responsive ways.