Trained fistula surgeons are in short supply, limiting fistula treatment capacity. A lack of trained surgeons, especially surgeons who reside in the low-resource countries where fistula is most prevalent, means that capacity to treat fistula patients is limited, adding to the growing backlog of women waiting for treatment. Compounding this challenge, no two fistulas are identical. It can take years of training for a single surgeon to be sufficiently prepared to treat a wound that can be extremely complex.
International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO)
In 2011, Fistula Foundation partnered with FIGO to support development of a groundbreaking tool, the first-ever Global Competency-Based Fistula Surgery Training Manual. The manual has helped standardize training and surgical care across the fistula treatment community, and served as the basis of FIGO’s Fistula Training Initiative, a pipeline for training surgeons who live and work in countries where obstetric fistula is most prevalent. Fistula Foundation funded the first five surgical fellows to join this program, and thanks to generous support from Johnson & Johnson, we are proud to continue this support. Since 2012, we have supported ongoing training for 54 surgeons from 20 countries. To date, four surgical fellows have attained advanced competency as fistula surgeons and 50 have attained standard competency, with many of the 50 currently working toward the advanced level. We are working closely with both FIGO and Johnson & Johnson to provide additional training opportunities to surgeons to help them develop skills to treat more complex cases of fistula.
We also worked with FIGO to establish the Gynocare Fistula Center as the first FIGO certified training center in Kenya. Here, Kenyan surgeons are receiving training to treat obstetric fistula in their home hospitals through our Action on Fistula program, which is generously funded by Astellas Pharma EMEA.
Over two billion people lack access to basic surgical services worldwide, with less than 4 percent of all operations being delivered to the world’s poorest country. In fact, Africa has roughly 1 percent of the total number of surgeons found in the U.S. This is of particular interest to Fistula Foundation, because we know that 289,000 women die every year of childbirth because they do not have access to safe surgical intervention. Most of these deaths are completely preventable. Women who survive difficult childbirth too often suffer from injuries like obstetric fistula, which can only be treated through surgical repair.
Fistula Foundation is proud to be a member of the G4Alliance, a global alliance for surgical, obstetric, trauma and anasthesia care that advocates for neglected surgical patients in low-resource countries.
The G4 Alliance and its partners are working to roll out a global consultation process designed to collect input and build consensus for a Global Action Plan that will guide the G4 Alliance’s advocacy, policy, and fundraising strategy in support of global surgical, obstetric, trauma and anaesthesia care around the world. The consultation process will include a series of monthly webinars, an online consultation process, as well as regional launches and consultative meetings. Learn more about this organization and their Global Action Plan on the G4 Alliance website.