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Director’s Notes

An Update from the Executive Director

August 25, 2021

WFF Grantees.

THANK YOU for your continued support of WFF and our grantees! I previously shared that with the continued lifting of COVID restrictions, our partners envisioned service expansion for 2021. WFF responded by awarding funding for 2021 to support a 45% increase in services.

When COVID restrictions persisted, partners developed “work-arounds” and absorbed new expenses, i.e., extra travel for smaller meetings, higher phone minutes, test kits, PPE, etc. WFF responded by inviting new funding proposals and implemented a second grant cycle in May. ARENA, Let’s End Fistula Initiative, Terrewode, Danja Fistula Center and Mekelle University/Ayder Hospital were all approved for new funds! The WFF Board awarded extra mid-year grants totaling $86,000 — thanks to supporters like you who gave generously in 2020 and early in 2021.

The recent emergence of COVID-19 variants has again affected partners: travel restrictions and other lockdown measures, shipping delays, etc. Also, unrest continues in Tigray, Ethiopia, where our Urogynecology Fellowship program is based. Grantees are doing their best to adapt.

Burkina Faso — Association Renaissance (ARENA)

Dr. Itengre’s 2021 annual goals include 60 fistula surgeries, 48 women to receive small business/vocational training and educating 5,000 community members.

  • Through Q2, ARENA completed an amazing 40 surgeries, 35 women were taught to make liquid soap and trained 5 outreach volunteers who helped reached 25,000 community members with childbirth injury treatment awareness and prevention education
  • Although new clinic construction is 95% complete, delayed arrival of key equipment has postponed performing surgeries there from late 2021 to 2022
  • ARENA’s Q4 new clinic surgeries & teaching shifts to Bobo-Dioulasso teaching hospital (Urology and Ob-Gyn residents); Surgeries will continue at Larry Ebert Medical Center
  • Extra WFF mid-year funding supported more surgeries, reintegration & medical training

Dr. Itengre is developing plans to use his new clinical space for non-surgical services: socially distanced injury prevention & maternal health education and vocational/reintegration trainings.

Kenya — Let’s End Fistula Initiative (LEFI)

Sarah Omega’s 2021 annual goals include stabilizing Solidarity Groups’ 230 small businesses, building Group savings for microloan & microgrant programs supporting 200 women, launching 2 new Solidarity Groups and 9 school Safe Mother Clubs, reaching 38,000 with Safe Motherhood education and referring 800 at risk mothers for antenatal care and hospital delivery.

  • Through Q2, 95 small businesses stabilized/Groups building savings; 1 new Solidarity Group; 7,000 people educated in Safe Motherhood; Referred 253 at-risk mothers
  • Two Solidarity groups are self-funding half their monthly meetings. Nearly all 11 groups were doing so in early 2020, prior to the pandemic
  • Schools have recently reopened with LEFI working to launch new Safe Motherhood Clubs
  • Extra WFF mid-year funding prioritizes Solidarity Group self-sustainability and School Clubs

Pandemic restrictions have been consistent over the past 6 months and LEFI is adapting prevention education under capacity restrictions for group gatherings and actively seeking new funders in Kenya.

Niger — Danja Fistula Center

Danja Fistula Center (DFC) has reached 50% of their annual goal with 100 year to date fistula surgeries and Dr. Porter continues her training toward FIGO fistula surgeon certification.

  • New, dedicated physical therapist has joined the fistula team this month
  • COVID cases remain low, but new quarantine requirements affect international travelers
  • Developing their 5-year operating plan to maximize capacity to treat women, replace aging (10 years) medical equipment, expand role with Ministry of Health in national fistula strategy
  • Extra WFF mid-year funding replaced medical equipment and unreliable internet hardware

NEW leadership focuses on DFC’s sustainability: expanding donor base/reducing reliance on WFF.

Uganda — Terrewode/Terrewode Women’s Community Hospital (TWCH)

Alice Emasu and Terrewode’s 2021 annual goals include childbirth injury surgeries for 130 women at TWCH and partner facilities; 90 women reintegrated/ trained in small business enterprises, Solidarity Group credit and savings activities, health education and knowing their marital rights; 58 advocates trained to provide treatment awareness and injury prevention community education

  • Through Q2, 57 women’s surgeries; 48 trained in small business enterprises, Solidarity Groups
  • In late June, TWCH suspended services for 14 days as the Delta variant caused new restrictions
  • Lockdown lifted and TWCH resumed surgeries with new COVID protocols; Surgeries to resume at partner hospitals in Q4 with the Ministry of Health covering extra testing and PPE costs
  • All TWCH patients now receive small scale reintegration services post-surgery with later follow-up reintegration programing in the Kampala center or field-based
  • Extra WFF mid-year funding will support increased need for fistula treatment

Alice Emasu has skillfully pivoted under changing local conditions to deliver holistic services.

Ethiopia — Mekelle University/Ayder Referral Hospital (ARH)

We met our July campaign goal! WFF will provide ARH $28,000 in Obstetrics equipment and supplies to address immense childbirth injury service needs among Tigray conflict displaced populations since November 2020. Much thanks to Lisa and Paul for their $10,000 matching gift. WFF will ship once the Ministry of Health can assure safe delivery. ARH was the primary teaching location for the Urogynecology Fellowship program which converted to mainly virtual last year. In February 2021, training was done during a surgical camp at our partner Hamlin site. Fellows continue to serve women back at their home institutions across Ethiopia.


Soja Orlowski
Executive Director, Worldwide Fistula Fund

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