Action on Fistula: New partnership a ‘game changer’ for women in Kenya

Astellas - Action on Fistula

On May 23, the United Nations’ International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, Astellas Pharma Europe, Ltd., the European headquarters of Tokyo-based Astellas Pharma Inc., announced that Fistula Foundation had been selected as the focus of the organization’s flagship corporate giving program, which aims to provide treatment to women who suffer from obstetric fistula in Kenya.

The result of a rigorous and extremely competitive process, the award comes in the form of a €1.5 million ($2 million) donation to be deployed through Action on Fistula, a comprehensive new Fistula Foundation initiative that will work to deliver life-changing surgery to 1,200 women in Kenya over the next three years. This program marks the first time the Foundation has the funding and ability to go deeply into a single country to treat fistula at its core.

In an interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation, Fistula Foundation CEO Kate Grant commented, “We’re thrilled with this partnership with Astellas and its potential to be a ‘game changer’ for fistula treatment,” adding, “We hope to make Kenya, and what we are doing here, a model that we can take to other places.”

Action on Fistula will provide free fistula surgeries and also lay the foundation for continuous and lasting availability of fistula treatment in Kenya. Designed and deployed by Fistula Foundation, the program takes a multipronged approach to treating fistula by working to increase the number of highly trained fistula surgeons in Kenya; scaling up a countrywide outreach campaign to identify fistula patients and refer them for surgery; and building a fistula treatment network in medical facilities throughout Kenya in order to reduce the time a woman has to wait before receiving surgery. In some parts of the country, women with fistula must currently wait a year or more for treatment.

Deepening our existing partnership with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), we will fund training in advanced fistula repair for Kenyan doctors by creating the first-ever FIGO Training Center in Kenya, where expert fistula surgeons will follow the FIGO Global Competency Based Training Manual, the global standard for quality fistula care.

Improved community outreach is also essential in order to reach women who suffer with fistula in rural and remote parts of Kenya. Action on Fistula will build strong networks of community health workers and advocates that will identify, support and refer more women to facilities where they can receive care. The program will also build surgical capacity at five strategically located hospitals in the first year of this campaign, with plans for further expansion.

Dr. Laura Laski, Chief, Sexual and Reproductive Health Branch of UNFPA said that this partnership “…is the first of its kind in Kenya and has the potential to be a roadmap for the way corporations, NGOs and citizens can join together to identify and treat the severe backlog of women who are suffering from obstetric fistula.”

To learn more about Fistula Foundation’s leadership of the Action on Fistula campaign, visit

This article originally appeared in Fistula Foundation’s Summer 2014 newsletter. Click here to view a PDF of the entire newsletter.

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