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Funding Boosts Fistula Treatment Program in Kenya

  • Kim Lewis

Healing the Pain of Obstetric Fistula

Healing the Pain of Obstetric Fistula

The Fistula Foundation, a U.S,-based organization dedicated to treating obstetric fistula, announced recently that it received a $2 million grant to support their work to treat women with obstetric fistula in Kenya, through a new program, Action on Fistula.

The international organization says the money, provided by the pharmaceutical company, Astellas Pharma Europe LTD., is the largest single grant they have ever received, and the biggest corporate commitment ever made to fistula treatment.

The funding will help treat 1,200 women in Kenya with life-changing surgery. In addition, the program has the potential to serve as a model for comprehensive fistula treatment in other countries.

Kate Grant, is the CEO of Fistula Foundation. She explained that fistula impacts a woman both physically and emotionally.

“Obstetric Fistula is a childbirth injury,” she explained. “It’s the result of unrelieved obstructed labor—the kind of labor that if a woman was giving birth in the United States or another industrialized developed country would likely have a C-section, and she wouldn’t end up with a fistula. But, for millions of women that give birth at home without access to emergency obstetric care, this injury can result.”

Grant said it basically is an injury that leaves women incontinent. However she said the tears that create the incontinence can be sewn up by a well-trained competent surgeon.

The CEO pointed out that the physical ramifications of fistula, such as incontinence, have a far reaching effect on the woman’s mental health.

“If you live in an underdeveloped country, often these women are ostracized because of the leaking of bodily waste, urine and feces…. And without often hot running water and products that we would have in a developed country –Depend pads or something like that -- the women again, are ostracized and frequently left by their husbands,” explained Grant.

However, through the new program in Kenya, Action on Fistula, women suffering from the condition will have the hope of leading a healthy life.

“We are going to be spending 1.5 million euros, which is a little over $2 million, over three years, targeting Kenya exclusively,” highlighted Grant. “What we’ve got is really a three-pronged approach. One we’re going to be treating women with injury. We hope to treat at least 1,200 women in those three years. We’re going to be training fistula surgeons…and, we’re going to be pursuing, really quite robust outreach efforts.”

She added they want to reach out to women living in remote areas who may not know treatment exists, to let them know they can be treated for free under the Kenya program.

Ultimately, Grant emphasized, they hope the program in Kenya can serve as a model for treatment of fistula in other countries.