What We Do
Founded in 1995, the Worldwide Fistula Fund (WFF) is a not-for-profit public charity that provides free, comprehensive obstetric fistula repair surgery, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation programs and services for women and girls suffering from obstetric fistula in sub-Saharan Africa.
A fistula is a hole in the vagina caused by prolonged, obstructed labor, which destroys a woman’s ability to “hold” her urine or feces. Instead, her waste flows uninterrupted through the hole and out of her vagina. Terrified, ashamed and often grieving the loss of the stillborn baby, these women are frequently cast out of their marriages and homes. They are unable to work, socialize or even feed themselves. This condition is so devastating – and so demoralizing – it can lead to severe depression and even suicide. Fistulas – and the traumatizing aftermath – often strike the youngest, 12- or 13-year-olds whose pelvises have not developed enough to pass a baby through. Tens of thousands of women in sub-Saharan Africa endure a life of pain, fear and misery due to obstetric fistulas and thousands of new cases occur each year.
The Worldwide Fistula Fund has current programs in Niger, Uganda, and Ethiopia, as well as a Rehabilitation Advisory Council dedicated to integrating occupational and physical therapy into fistula treatment.
The Danja Fistula Center, Danja, Niger
In February 2012, the Worldwide Fistula Fund opened a new fistula hospital in Danja, Niger. The Danja Fistula Center (DFC) offers free fistula repair surgery, a prevention program and a reintegration program.
Women with fistula are often low priority within health care systems overwhelmed by acute needs. Danja Fistula Center is a freestanding center dedicate entirely to fistulas. It not only offers a comprehensive range of short- and long-term services to women suffering from fistulas, but also provides training and research opportunities for medical professionals.
The Center is staffed and run by professionals from the region. The surgical component is led by Dr. Itengré Ouédraogo, who is certified as an expert fistula surgeon by the international certifying body the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO).
More than 500 fistula repair surgeries have been performed at the Danja Fistula Center since 2012.
The reintegration program assists women after fistula surgery, providing counseling, skills training and basic literacy classes.
TERREWODE, Soroti, Uganda
The Worldwide Fistula Fund supports to the Ugandan nonprofit TERREWODE, which is committed to improving post-surgical care and social rehabilitation for fistula survivors. WFF helped launch a Reintegration Center where survivors benefit from services like counseling, nutritional support, literacy education, entrepreneurial and vocational skills. Through these programs, women and girls are empowered to improve their physical, social and economic welfare.
WFF also supports TERREWODE’s Obstetric Fistula Awareness and Advocacy Network (OFAAN), a vibrant grassroots structure of trained outreach volunteers working in community settings to identify fistula patients and refer them to Terrewode for treatment.
Mekelle Medical School Residency Program
The newest program for the Worldwide Fistula Fund is the Mekelle Medical School Residency Program launched in January of 2014, in partnership with Washington University in St. Louis, and Barnes Jewish Hospital. The program objective is to establish a functioning post-graduate residency training program in obstetrics and gynecology. This program will provide new doctors with enhanced training opportunities, as well as direct training in the prevention and treatment of fistulas.
Rehabilitation Advisory Council
The Rehabilitation Advisory Council is comprised of leaders in occupational and physical therapy, working to successfully integrate physical and occupational therapy into best practices for providing complete treatment for women with fistula.