Obstetric fistula is a vast problem affecting half a million of the world’s poorest women. Fistula Foundation plays a vital role in helping these women and working to end the suffering caused by fistula worldwide. We provide funding to the very best organizations helping in the places where the need for obstetric fistula surgery treatment is greatest. We focus on three things: patients, doctors and facilities. And we have a strong track record of identifying, assessing and partnering with the most respected, productive and effective hospitals and dedicated local doctors. One of our key strengths is our ability to move quickly and help provide funding for what is needed to advance care on the ground.
Funding More Local, Skilled Fistula Surgeons
A major obstacle to providing fistula treatment throughout the world is the lack of suitably trained surgeons. Not only does a fistula repair surgery require more training than some other corrective surgeries, but the global pool of trained fistula surgeons is much more limited, in part, because obstetric fistula has largely ceased to be a problem in the developed world.
Obstructed labor in the developed world is nowadays routinely taken care of in most cases before a fistula can develop, thanks to vast improvements in maternal health care and widespread access to Caesarean section deliveries. Thus, surgeons in the developed world rarely have experience in treating the condition – making the number of qualified surgeons in the world very small.
Training local health workers is a key solution in fighting fistula in sub-Saharan Africa and southeastern Asia, where the condition is most prevalent. Not only does training local surgeons help to overcome immediate need, it can also be a culturally appropriate and long-term, sustainable solution.
To help overcome this challenge, Fistula Foundation has partnered with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) to offer the world’s first Fistula Surgery Training Fellowship, a 6-8 week program offered at accredited training centers throughout Africa. The Fellowship provides training and mentoring oversight to candidates from countries most at need, who intend to return home with this training to continue to serve their communities.
Increasing Treatment in Innovative Ways
Sometimes the key to increasing treatment is the provision of equipped facilities. Sometimes the key is education, teaching fistula sufferers what fistula is and letting them know where they can go for free treatment. Sometimes the key is paying for transportation; sometimes the solution is simply funding surgeon salaries or supplies.
Whatever the specific local bottlenecks to treatment are, the stakes and urgency in overcoming them are great. That’s why Fistula Foundation carefully selects in-country partners who are on the ground, working to end fistula at proven facilities.