Restoring Health and Hope for Women with Fistula in Somalia


Earlier this month, Direct Relief provided a $50,000 grant to support essential obstetric fistula repair surgeries for women who are living with this devastating and debilitating condition in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

Direct Relief again partnered with the Women and Health Alliance International (WAHA), an international nonprofit organization committed to improving maternal and neonatal health in disadvantaged communities throughout Africa, to help carry out the goals of the grant on the ground in Somalia, where only 1/3 of all births are attended by skilled personnel.

WAHA aims to improve maternity care to reduce the extremely high rates of maternal mortality and provide fistula repair services for women in the capital city of Mogadishu by training local health providers; establishing an ambulance service; upgrading the quality of equipment within the biggest child and maternity hospital in Somalia, Benadir Hospital; creating a midwifery school; and creating a 60-bed facility dedicated to fistula repair.

To fulfill this three-year project, WAHA is also working closely with Somali Ministry of Health, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and The Fistula Foundation.

These quality maternal and neonatal health services, including obstetric fistula treatment, are essential for host and internally displaced populations in Mogadishu. Since 2007, more than 2.2 million people have been displaced from their homes as a result of a raging insurgency combined with extreme food shortages because of an extensive drought and high rates of inflation.

The $50,000 grant from Direct Relief will help enable WAHA to carry out this vital work and will be used for the following essential interventions:

  • $22,000—train nine Somali fistula care staff to fully take over the fistula repair operations at Benadir Hospital. This includes: two obstetrician-gynecologists, two anesthetist technicians, one operating theater nurse, two nurses, two social support/reintegration officers
  • $18,000—perform 24 fistula repair operations for women who would otherwise be unable to pay for the procedure
  • $10,000—repair and refurbishment of the 60 bed fistula treatment department including fixing holes in the roof, replacing electrical circuits and plumbing, rebuilding the sanitation facilities

Obstetric fistula is caused by prolonged and obstructed labor and creates a hole in the birth canal that, if left untreated, can cause chronic incontinence and bodily fluid leakage. Often the baby is lost and the hole that is created in the birth canal creates a severely debilitating and tragically ostracizing condition for each woman with the condition.

Roughly two million women in the developing world women suffer with this devastating – but fixable – problem and an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 cases develop each year, far surpassing the global capacity for treatment. The condition primarily results from a lack of quality maternity care services.

Together, Direct Relief and Women and Health Alliance will be able to reduce the number of women suffering from obstetric fistula in Mogadishu.

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