BENEFITING: WORLDWIDE FISTULA FUND INC
To read about the women in the photographs please go to www.worldwidefistulafund.org.
The Worldwide Fistula Fund (WFF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing life-saving obstetric fistula surgery for women in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing areas. Fistula, internal injuries that happen when women don't have access to proper medical care during or after childbirth, have devastating effects on a woman's physical, psychological and emotional health. But there is a treatment that ends this suffering.
And the Worldwide Fistula Fund provides it.
The Worldwide Fistula Fund will soon open a new fistula hospital in Danja, Niger. The Danja Fistula Center will not only offer a comprehensive range of short- and long-term services to women suffering from fistula but also function as a training and research center for medical professionals. Over the coming years, the WFF hopes to advance the message of hope and healing by replicating this Center in other developing nations around the world.
Within just five years, the Center will:
- provide care for up to 2,500 women with fistula
- train at least 30 doctors from Niger and other African countries in fistula repair and
- develop community-based programs to aid in the prevention of obstructed labor (the major cause of fistula).
To achieve these milestones, the WFF is currently working on a development campaign to raise the nearly $5 million needed to build and operate the Center.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs) 1. What is obstetric fistula?
Fistula is a medical condition caused by prolonged or obstructed labor. The most common childbirth injuries that occur after obstructed labor are vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) and rectovaginal fistula (RVF). The word “fistula” is amedical term for an abnormal connection between two body organs or cavities. In VVF, the pressure of the fetal head in the pelvis during obstructed labor interrupts the blood flow to the tissues that are being compressed and causes those tissues to die. When the tissues between the bladder and vagina die, a hole opens up between them which allows urine to leak out as soon as it reaches the bladder. In RVF, the same process occurs, but in this case the tissues between the vagina and rectum are destroyed and feces pour out through the vagina.
2. Who suffers from obstetric fistula?
While it is impossible to know exactly how many women suffer from fistulas caused by obstructed labor, estimates range as high as 3.5 million women with this condition in sub-Saharan Africa, with up to 130,000 new cases each year. Fistula was common in western countries 150 years ago, but advances in medical care and universal access to emergency obstetric services have eliminated this condition in the industrialized world. Most of the women who have fistula today live in developing countries, where access to obstetric care is limited or nonexistent.
3. What happens to women who have this condition?
Once a woman sustains a childbirth injury of this kind, there are really very few places where she can go for help. In many parts of the world, women who do find help have waited five years between injury and treatment. The Nigerien government once estimated that there were at least 800,000 VVF victims awaiting repair in that country alone. By opening up a fistula hospital in Danja, Niger, the Worldwide Fistula Fund is committed to increasing access to care for women with childbirth injuries of this kind.
4. What happens to babies in cases of obstructed labor?
Among women who survive obstructed labor and developed an obstetric fistula, fewer than 7-percent have a live baby at the end of their ordeal. Since childbirth injury typically occurs during the mother’s first pregnancy, almost 70-percent of fistula victims end up with no living children. In the developing world, where family is usually one’s only source of security, the lack of children is devastating.
5. How does the Worldwide Fistula Fund help?
The Worldwide Fistula Fund helps by performing fistula surgeries on women in southern Niger. Although fistula surgery is very challenging, it can still be performed with a high degree of success in low-technology settings throughout Africa.
6. How successful are obstetric fistula surgeries?
The surgery to close a VVF is successful in the vast majority of cases but “closure” of the fistula does not necessarily mean that the woman is “cured.” About 15-percent of women whose fistula is closed continue to lose urine due to other problems with the bladder and urethra. Many women who have been through obstructed labor also have other injuries (including nerve damage, partial paralysis and/or traumatic pelvic conditions) that cause tremendous suffering and require ongoing physical therapy to address.
For more information please go to www.worldwidefistulafund.org