Fighting Fistula Through Training

Fighting Fistula Through Training


This is the second blog post in a series titled The Central Pillars of the Work We Do, an examination of the guiding principles behind the Worldwide Fistula Fund’s operations around the globe. The first post is here.

Obstetric fistula is a significant problem in so many developing countries, so we work all over the world to improve the capacity for care and treatment of this condition. One of our primary approaches involves training.

Fistula surgery and care is a niche field, and there are not many people with the experience and skills to treat women with this condition. Yet millions of women suffer from obstetric fistula, and between 50,000 and 130,000 new cases develop each year.

To address this tremendous need, we are dedicated to training local nurses and doctors, starting in and around our hospital in Niger. We’ve already come a long way in training our wonderfully competent staff in Danja: Dr. Intengré from Burkina Faso can perform most of the surgeries without the aid of Dr. Arrowsmith, our chief surgeon, and Nouhou Maoune from Danja is almost done with school and will soon become our nurse anesthetist. We’ve trained many more ward and OR nurses, too.

The Worldwide Fistula Fund has also worked to develop a unique and useful standardized training curriculum in obstetric fistula surgery that has already has been used in projects in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through EngenderHealth, a major international reproductive health organization. This curriculum also is the basis for Mercy Ships’ fistula surgery training program on its hospital ship, the Africa Mercy.

Training of fistula surgeons consists of an intensive one-on-one surgical mentorship which includes:

  • Instruction in the proper selection of patients for repair
  • Pre-operative patient preparation
  • Fistula surgery techniques
  • Post-operative patient care
  • Management of psychosocial issues resulting from the trauma of obstructed labor
  • Organizational and management principles needed to operate a fistula center

We are also laying the groundwork with the Ministry of Public Health of Niger and international bodies such as FIGO to help strategize and standardize our approaches to training to reach even more potential and future fistula surgeons.

Stay tuned for our next post about our support of obstetric fistula research. In the meantime, we appreciate every bit of support for all of our efforts. You can follow us on Twitter here and make a financial contribution of any size here.

This post was written by WFF staffers Kim and Bryant.

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