Thousands of women have received life-restoring treatment for fistula, but much work remains to end fistula and reach the millions of women suffering from the condition. Join the fight. Follow Direct Relief’s efforts to prevent fistula and restore dignity for women with fistula worldwide.
What is Fistula?
Obstetric fistula is a hole in the birth canal that is caused by prolonged and obstructed labor. If untreated, a woman with obstetric fistula will experience constant and uncontrollable leakage of urine and/or feces. In addition to physical injuries, many women with fistula suffer humiliation, isolation, and stigma as a result of the smell and constant leakage. And in most cases of obstructed labor in which a fistula develops, the baby is stillborn.
An estimated 2 million women and girls in the developing world are living with obstetric fistula and more than 50,000 new cases develop each year, far surpassing the global capacity for treatment. The latest data released in the Global Fistula Map shows the gap is widening for women suffering from obstetric fistula. But slowly, availability of treatment is expanding as more doctors are becoming trained to provide fistula repair surgery and more women with fistula are identified and referred to treatment. At the same time, efforts to improve coverage of skilled providers at birth and increase access to emergency obstetric care to manage complications are helping prevent new cases of fistula.
How Direct Relief is Helping
1. Global Fistula Map // The largest source of information on fistula treatment capacity worldwide
Direct Relief, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and The Fistula Foundation, developed the Global Fistula Map—the first-ever worldwide map of treatment for this devastating childbirth injury—to help better understand the current fistula treatment capacity; more effectively target scarce resources to where they are needed most; and identify where gaps in service may exist. For Direct Relief, the Global Fistula Map enables the organization to know where fistula surgery is available, allowing us to increase our support of medical surgical supplies to those treatment facilities, a critical component in helping sustain and expand their ability to provide care to women in need.
In November 2012, the map was presented at the International Society of Obstetric Fistula Surgeons and the UNFPA International Obstetric Fistula Working Group in Bangladesh, to help health providers, public health professionals, and fistula advocates understand where current resources exist today in order to better plan for the future. The Map was also recently cited in the 2012 UN Secretary General Report “Supporting Efforts to End Obstetric Fistula” and the May 2013 edition of the leading peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet.
2. Providing Essential Medical and Surgical Supplies to Enable Life-Restoring Fistula Repair Surgery
Without access to quality medical and surgical supplies, health professionals are unable to provide life-restoring care to women living with fistula. With support from leading healthcare industry partners, Direct Relief delivers critical supplies necessary for fistula repair surgery and post-operative care, including sutures and surgical supplies, surgical instruments, antibiotics and pain medication, incontinence pads, and personal care products. In many cases these supplies are simply unavailable without Direct Relief support, such as in recent reports from our partners at Hoima Regional Referral Hospital in Uganda and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital and UNFPA in Malawi. In western Kenya, Direct Relief supplies allowed Gynocare Fistula Center to open their doors by providing the equipment and supplies to get them up and running.
Direct Relief currently works with 17 hospitals in 10 countries throughout Africa and Asia that collectively provide life-restoring treatment for approximately 2,250 women each year.
3. Improving Access to Treatment
Direct Relief works closely with our local health care partners to help them initiate or expand fistula repair services so that more women have access to this life-restoring care. In addition to delivering the medical and surgical supplies essential to fistula treatment, Direct Relief has worked closely with trusted partners such as the Fistula Foundation to provide cash grant support to help local partners do even more.
In Somaliland, Direct Relief helped facilitate the construction of a surgical theater at the Edna Adan Hospital in Hargeisa. In Nyanza Province, Kenya, Direct Relief helped train health providers to ensure women with fistula are properly identified and receive appropriate care as well as increase community outreach to provide treatment to more girls and women. Most recently, Direct Relief formed a partnership to bring fistula care and treatment to remote corners of Pakistan.
Click on an image below to learn about the women receiving fistula repair and the health professionals providing life-restoring care: