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.
The Danja Fistula Center in Niger officially opens on February 11 . . . and we are so excited! Our staff is already on site in west Africa making sure that everything is ready to hit the ground running for the first surgeries. The doctors and nurses are trained, the medicines have been stocked, the equipment have been set up, and the wards and treatment areas are sparkling clean to accomodate our eager guests.
Because the need for obstetric fistula treatment and care is so great, the first clinic and admittance day is actually on February 6 — five full days before the opening celebration. The Minister of Health will tour the facility and cut a ceremonial ribbon to mark the event. Surgery will begin on Tuesday and the grand opening will follow on Saturday.
Our executive director, Mark Shaker, wrote that there are already 42 women at the facility awaiting treatment. One woman in particular has been living with a fistula for 15 years and told the staff that she just cannot take it anymore. Although she knew the Danja Fistula Center wasn’t opening until February, she left her home at the end of December. It took her 30 days to travel the roughly 600 mile-distance to the hospital grounds. She ran out of money on day five and begged for food and rides until she got there. Mark wrote, “She could not stop hugging and thanking us.”
It is women like this — and supporters like you — who inspire us every day. Please continue to watch this space for further updates and donate today to help fund the Danja Fistula Center and bring an end to this horrific condition.
Day two of surgeries ended with four more repairs. Two of the women that received surgeries were near 50 years in age and had been living with obstetric fistulas for decades. The team has also admitted four more women that are scheduled for surgeries tomorrow. It is remarkable to see the spirit and courage in all of the women. They are jubilant with hope and also fearful of undergoing a surgical repair. They comfort each other on the ward, and while they may be alone in their village or even their home, they have found wonderful company and support from the other survivors.
The last time the medical team was in Danja (November), they were able to
complete enough screenings for women that were not repaired to fill up all of the surgical spots for this trip. Twenty-four women have been waiting since then for the team to return and for the fistula surgeries to begin. Word spread through the area that the team was coming out, so more than 40 women arrived prior to the team in a hope that they could be seen for surgery. In fact, some women have been on the grounds for as long as eight days to make sure that they did not miss out on this surgical opportunity. They have gathered just outside the medical ward under a shaded tree and patiently waited for a chance to speak with the nurses and to be evaluated.
Surgeries have started and the team is currently working on their fourth and last one of the day. The first three have gone exceptionally well, and the women are resting in the recovery ward. One of the ladies just completed her third repair, and has been coaching the other women, who are very nervous, about how they can expect to feel after obstetric fistula surgery.
Worldwide Fistula Fund physicians, nurses and staff just returned home from a successful trip to Danja, Niger. Each of the 12 women they operated on during the visit are recuperating in good health. Approximately two-thirds of the women the team treated had undergone repair previously at other facilities, and one woman came for her fifth attempt at repair.
Another highlight of the recently completed trip was the introduction of a new orientation process for the surgical patients. Along with a patient volunteer (who had surgery here in August), we performed a small drama about fistula surgery. The patient donned a patient gown, had her blood pressure taken, acted out all of the steps of having fistula surgery and finished her performance by singing a ballad about the experience. The audience then had time to ask questions. Overall, the team felt that this was a very appropriate means of describing the hospitalization process to the patients, and hope to expand upon it for future work at Danja.