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Launch of First Ever Global Fistula Map


Maternal Health

Direct Relief has just launched the first ever collaborative & interactive Global Fistula Map.

The largest and most comprehensive map of available services for women living with obstetric fistula was launched today by Direct Relief, the Fistula Foundation, and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. The release of the Global Fistula Map, a major step forward in understanding the landscape of worldwide treatment capacity for obstetric fistula, will help streamline the allocation of resources and raise awareness of the condition.

Obstetric fistula, one of the most devastating childbirth injuries, is caused by the lack of a skilled birth attendant and access to emergency care during delivery. It is a highly stigmatizing, though in most cases treatable condition that results from prolonged, obstructed labor and causes chronic incontinence. According to currently accepted estimates, there are some 50,000-100,000 new cases every year.

“Tragically, there are unacceptably high numbers of fistula cases, yet we see from the map data gathered so far that treatment currently only reaches a fraction of patients annually—an estimated 14,000 women in 2010—not counting the significant backlog of cases,” said Gillian Slinger, the UNFPA Coordinator of the Campaign to End Fistula. “Documenting where treatment is available is critical to providing care, raising resources and restoring the health and dignity of women and girls living with fistula. If we know where service gaps are, we can then better steer activities forward, to get help to all those who need it.”

The Global Fistula Map is an evolving collaborative effort that was developed by Direct Relief and highlights over 150 health facilities providing fistula repair in 40 countries across #Africa , South East Asia, and the Middle East. While availability of surgical treatment for obstetric fistula is growing, the current capacity of most facilities is low. Over half of reporting facilities treated less than 50 patients in 2010, while only 5 facilities worldwide reported treating more than 500 women. It is anticipated that the map will improve coordination, and enhance fistula prevention and treatment efforts worldwide.

Helping women with fistula receive life-restoring surgical care requires knowing where the women are and where care is available,” said Lindsey Pollaczek, the Senior Program Manager who led the effort on behalf of Direct Relief. “Direct Relief uses mapping technology and tools to target medical resources more effectively, and we are so pleased to do this work to support the larger effort to help women with fistula get the care they need.”

The map will be expanded and continuously updated with information provided by experts and practitioners around the globe about facilities providing fistula repair and rehabilitation services.

“The Global Fistula Map is a crucial step forward in the field of fistula treatment. It is a dynamic and powerful tool that can help target scarce resources where they are most needed to treat women with obstetric fistula,” said Kate Grant, CEO of the Fistula Foundation.

The Global Fistula Map is a joint project by Direct Relief, the Fistula Foundation and UNFPA, with data also contributed by EngenderHealth, WAHA International, and the International Society of Obstetric Fistula Surgeons.

Editor’s note: The Global Fistula Map was migrated to the Global Fistula Hub in 2020 to better understand the landscape, known need, and availability of fistula repair services around the world.

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