The most obvious work we do at the Danja Fistula Center is to offer free and life-changing surgeries to women suffering from obstetric fistula. But our work extends far beyond the transformations that begin inside our operating rooms. We have five pillars of care — some of which we’ve written about before — and those include surgical care, training, fistula prevention, research, and social reintegration.
We’ve expanded our social reintegration program in recent months with the generous support of LUSH Cosmetics, and we’re about to be featured in the company’s latest issue of Lush Times. We’re thrilled about this, because soon nearly a million copies of the Lush Times will be available in Lush stores all over the world — an incredible opportunity to spread awareness and build support for obstetric fistula programs.
Our social reintegration program helps our patients rebuild their lives after we’ve taken care of their medical needs. For the women we serve, social reintegration is often crucial to their continued happiness after fistula surgery, especially since many of these women have been shunned by their communities because of fistula.
Our social reintegration initiatives include vocational training, entrepreneurial guidance, and literacy development, which is significant in a region with a 10% literacy rate. These programs range from two weeks to eight months in length and are shaped based on the needs of particular patients. We look forward to sharing stories of our reintegration successes in the months ahead.
If you live near a Lush store, visit soon and pick up a copy of Lush Times and, even better, buy one of their Charity Pot hand and body lotions; 100% of the price goes to organizations like ours.
If you’d like to support the work we do directly, click on over to this lovely page.
We know that a world without fistula will not come to be simply by training enough surgeons to repair all of the women who suffer from this devastating condition. A world without fistula requires prevention. And thus we are thrilled to announce our newest initiative at the Danja Fistula Center.
In partnership with Health and Development International (HDI), the WFF has introduced a community-based fistula prevention program in a 50-mile radius of the Danja Fistula Center. This program is also a collaboration with the Niger government and features aggressive education and training interventions within local communities and the existing health infrastructure.
We began our prevention efforts six months ago and have already provided services to 86 villages and conducted educational workshops to 68,000 individuals. We have also successfully identified and trained a female and male volunteer in each of these 86 villages and developed evacuation plans for women undergoing difficult labors in each community.
This program is going to help us expand our reach — our footprint, if you will — in profound and far-reaching ways. Through this fistula prevention program, we hope to:
- Significantly reduce the number of new fistula cases
- Eliminate new incidences in localities that are two days or fewer from a hospital capable of performing a c-section
- Drastically reduce maternal deaths during childbirth
- Increase the number of prenatal consultations, births occurring with health care assistance, and postnatal consultations
- Educate local populations on fistula and improve the acceptance of women living with the condition
- Transfer all women who have been in labor for more than 24 hours to a medical setting
With skilled personnel on the ground, a pragmatic and effective model to work with, cooperation from national and local officials, and HDI directors to access for support, we are confident that our prevention interventions will make a significant impact in Niger. We look forward to reporting back after the program has been operational for one year with an update.
To continue supporting the Danja Fistula Center — and help bring healing and medical care to thousands and thousands of women living with the agony of obstetric fistula — please make a tax-deductible one-time or recurring gift today. You may also share your thoughts on the work we do on our GreatNonprofits profile.
As always, we thank you for your incredible generosity.
December is the top month for charitable contributions in the United States. For many nonprofits, including the Worldwide Fistula Fund, roughly one-third of annual giving occurs in the last month of the year. During this time, we especially want to make our organization as transparent as possible so our donors can see that the money they donate helps achieve real and meaningful good.
To that end, the Worldwide Fistula Fund has made its financials available on Guidestar, where we are a 5-star member and have earned the GuideStar Exchange Seal of transparency. The WFF has also been honored with a prestigious 2012 Top-Rated Award by GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews about nonprofit organizations. The Top-Rated award was based on the large number of positive reviews the Worldwide Fistula Fund has received this year.
We encourage all of our supporters to dig into our website to learn about our goals and how we spend our donation dollars. And please feel free to contact the folks in our office at any time with questions about the Danja Fistula Center and new initiatives. We love hearing from you.
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.
The Worldwide Fistula Fund is dedicated to providing holistic care to women afflicted with obstetric fistula. Our comprehensive programs address the effects of fistula on people who have been wounded physically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. We believe a program that does not address all these issues is not good enough—fixing the fistula alone does not necessarily heal the whole person.
We are devoted to providing excellent clinical care at our fistula center. Though we’ve based this project in Danja, Niger, we also recognize the importance of implementing rational, effective strategies of fistula prevention around the world. Obstetric fistula is a devastating, yet very preventable, condition, and we believe that with comprehensive preventative programs, it can and will be eradicated.
To these ends, we uphold our core values by organizing our activities around five central pillars: clinical activity, training, research, rehabilitation, and prevention. We’d like to tell you more about each of these pillars, starting with the first one today.
Unlike many other hospitals in the developing world that treat a variety of conditions, the Danja Fistula Center is special in that it exclusively treats obstetric fistula. This focus allows our medical team to provide excellent care to women with fistula even in the context of limited resources.
The ward has 42 beds and the operating theater is capable of accommodating three simultaneous operations. The facility is also equipped with a large outpatient clinic and laboratory facilities. Our team has performed more than 130 surgeries so far this year, making it one of the busiest fistula hospitals in the world, though we haven’t been open that long. Within a few years, we will be able to perform more than 500 surgeries a year.
High quality treatment is offered to all, regardless of their ability to pay, religious or cultural background, or any other social or political factor. The doctors with whom we work have extensive experience in the management of obstetric fistula, and help us ensure that the Danja Fistula Center operates according to the highest possible clinical and ethical standards.
Please stay tuned in the coming weeks, as we’ll share details about the work we do related to training, research, rehabilitation, and prevention. Until then, here’s a synopsis of our work, which you can support here.
This post was written by WFF staffers Kim and Anne.
From WFF team member Anne, who just returned from a visit to the Danja Fistula Center in Niger:
“Last Tuesday was a record day at the Danja Fistula Center. Thirty women were seen by our doctors and nurses. All three clinic rooms were busy all afternoon, and the women were scheduled for surgery. One woman who appeared on the steps of the hospital that morning had been to the clinic previously and had returned with four friends who are also suffering from obstetric fistula. It was so heartening to see that there was a woman out there who had reached out to others and encouraged them to find help for their condition instead of suffering through it alone. Many women with a fistula are shamed by their condition and shunned by those around them; sometimes they try to deny that a problem exists. This woman bringing her friends was an encouraging sign.
“One of our patients has a young daughter who has been staying at the village while her mom recovers in the ward. She is darling, helpful and especially patient with me as I learn to speak Hausa. Last Tuesday she brought all of the patients lunch. We are happy to have her help, and so happy to see another way that the work we do extends beyond the individual women who receive treatment at our fistula center – to their families, and to the next generation, one we hope will grow up to view obstetric fistula as a problem solved, a relic of the past.”
Please help us get there by making a donation today. You can read about more of our patients here and here.
An update from Anne, who’s flown from our office in Denver to the Danja Fistula Center in Niger:
“Four women had surgery at the Danja Fistula Center on Wednesday. The nursing staff has recently set up a crafts table in the ward and staff and volunteers have engaged the women with a growing variety of art projects. It’s wonderful to watch the women learn how to knit or paint, some for the first time. Giving the women the chance to learn something new that is simply for pleasure is a real treat, and their delight is infectious.
“On Thursday, I took the opportunity to show the women one of my favorite craft activities – making clay fimo beads. After a quick demonstration, they quickly caught on and chose a variety of colors to blend and shape into bright and beautiful beads. As the pile of beads grew, the women laughed, adding more and more as quickly as their hands could craft them. Once we ran out of clay, we lined up the beads and counted them together in both English and Hausa – 58 beads! Not yet ready for stringing as they needed to be heated, I took the beads in my bag and promised to be back so that everyone could make jewelry for themselves and their “aboki”- their friends at the DFC.
“Sharing a fun activity that the women could learn and enjoy that day was a truly wonderful experience. I am already looking forward to our next project, and I know the patients at the Danja Fistula Center are, as well.”
If you’d like to support the efforts of the Worldwide Fistula Fund in Niger and beyond, please contribute what you can today. Every donation is greatly appreciated and put to good use.
Our favorite stories from the Danja Fistula Center don’t just take place inside the hospital. For example, last month our crew in Danja planted 34 moringa trees on the hospital grounds. These trees are incredibly useful. The edible leaves are highly nutritious and rich in vitamins A and B, and the trees are excellent at fighting droughts; they can produce a crop throughout the year, even under severe weather conditions. With careful watering, the leaves can be harvested in just two months.
Moringa trees were traditionally used for food and medicinal purposes, but much of that knowledge has been lost. Nowadays, the tree is mostly used to make fence posts (in fact, its Hausa name, zogala gandi, means “fence tree”). But there have been recent efforts to teach women how to cultivate this tree to produce food to feed their families.
We plan on teaching the patients at the Fistula Center how to benefit from this nourishing, resilient and dependable tree—how to grow and take care of the plant, as well as harvest and cook the leaves. Their primary reason for being here is to receive life-changing surgery and treatment for a debilitating condition, but additional programs like this one will help our patients outside of the operating room, as well.
Support our efforts at the Danja Fistula Center by making a donation here. And read the story of one of our patients here.
The dress ceremonies are incredibly powerful moments of celebration at the Danja Fistula Center. Every few weeks, women who have received fistula surgery are honored in one of these ceremonies. Each woman is presented with a brand new dress which symbolizes a new beginning in her life.
Staff, community members and fellow patients convene and a celebration takes place recognizing the transition into a new stage of existence. We sing songs, dance and allow for individual fistula sufferers to share their own stories. Each tale is heartbreaking, but the patients who tell them are euphoric – because they know they are walking away from their past and starting fresh.
Women who receive their new dress wear it faithfully, and everyone at the Danja Fistula Center can tell when someone has had a corrective surgery by the dress she is wearing. As these women return for their follow-up appointments, they inevitably bring with them a beaming smile and a Danja Fistula Center dress.
For a little more information about the difficulties women face in Niger, click here. And to find out how you can support our work there, click here.
Our newsletter subscribers received this update earlier this week, but we wanted to share it with everyone, as well:
The women you see are the faces of fistula. They are young and they are old. They come from Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Algeria. Some came by bus, many by foot and a few were fortunate enough to get a ride from a family member. They all share the same goal: to end their personal suffering that has made living painful, uncomfortable and shameful. In their home villages, they are usually alone. The women are abandoned by their husbands, unable to find work and often must beg for food. But at the Danja Fistula Center, these women find comfort in knowing that they are not alone. In our “village,” a collection of hostels adjacent to the hospital, 25 women are patiently waiting to be admitted for care and to receive a fistula surgery. In the meantime, the women support one another in ways that only they can. Personal stories are shared and dreams for the future expressed. And once in a while, they even dance.
The women have names. Please meet Fatsima, Haoua, Mariamma, Aisha, Nana, Sanda, Ai and Hanatou. Thanks to your support, they will begin a new chapter of their lives after their fistula surgery – a chapter full of hope and new opportunities. We are privileged to enable such strong and determined women.
To subscribe to the WFF newsletter, please click here. And to help women like these receive life-changing fistula surgeries, make a donation here. Thank you, as always, for your continued interest and support.
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