Partner Spotlight: Gynocare Fistula Center

Gynocare Fistula Center, a nongovernmental organization in western Kenya, is dedicated to preventing and treating obstetric fistula – a hole in the birth canal that is caused by prolonged and obstructed labor. The center opened as an outpatient clinic in 2009 and expanded its services to provide fistula repair surgery in June 2011, with support from Direct Relief.

In just the few short months since Gynocare started admitting women with fistula, the small center has provided life-restoring treatment to over 70 women. By any standard in fistula surgery, this is a remarkable number to do within a few months’ time. To achieve this with one surgeon, in one operating theater, and with a small support staff,  is extraordinary.

Under the leadership of the dynamic and dedicated Dr. Hillary Mabeya, a fistula surgeon since 2003, Gynocare Center emphasizes a holistic approach to addressing fistula prevention, treatment, and recovery, including the woman’s reintegration into her community.

“I was operating the other day and a 55-year-old lady told me that now she can visit her daughter’s home to see her grandchildren because she is not ashamed anymore,” Dr. Mabeya reported. “Another young caretaker of a school told me that she can now reclaim her husband and her job after receiving the operation. These words of the two ladies make me work harder toward a fistula-free society.”

The center places a strong focus on outreach and advocacy to sensitize the community about obstetric fistula and to ensure that more women who need surgery can receive it free of charge at Gynocare Center.

Leading the outreach efforts is Sarah Omega, a fistula survivor who received successful reconstructive surgery from Dr. Mabeya in June 2007, ending her 12 years of suffering with the condition. Sarah is a strong advocate for obstetric fistula prevention and repair, rallying support for better reproductive health services and access to treatment for women living with this condition.

Direct Relief was introduced to Gynocare and its exceptional work through partnership with One by One, a Seattle, Washington–based foundation dedicated to eliminating obstetric fistula. After the introduction, Direct Relief immediately provided $25,000 worth of specifically requested medicines and surgical supplies to help Gynocare jumpstart its surgical services.

“I am most grateful for the kind donation and this will most be useful as we start fistula surgeries and care of fistula patients,” said Dr. Mabeya when the material was received. “The donation has come at the right time when we are embarking on starting surgeries.”

The 15-ward remains full to the brim. As soon as patients are discharged, those already identified and waiting in their communities, are swiftly transported in to fill the vacant beds.  No hour, or day of the week is off-limits for Gynocare staff to be hard at work—it is not uncommon to find the team at 11pm or early on Saturday and Sunday mornings in the operating theater.

The goal is to ensure that the women don’t wait more than a day longer than necessary once they arrive at Gynocare—so within one or two days after arrival, the women are reviewed and counseled, receive surgical repair, and are on their way to becoming healthy and dry within an average 2-week post-operative period.

Gynocare’s mandate is to be an exceptional center for quality and accessible reproductive health services. Direct Relief is privileged to partner with Dr. Mabeya and the exceptional staff of Gynocare Center in its efforts to restore health and hope to women living with obstetric fistula.

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