Success Story: Fistula Foundation

Success Story: Fistula Foundation

Habiba was married at 16 and pregnant with her first child soon thereafter. Like most women in Niger, she began labor at home. Habiba endured two days of painful, obstructed labor and was eventually sent in an ox-cart to the nearest hospital. By the time she received a Caesarian-section, Habiba had been in labor for four days. Her baby did not survive. While recovering in the hospital, Habiba realized that she was leaking urine; days of obstructed labor had created a fistula. When her husband learned of her condition, he sent word that she was not to return to his home.

Heartbroken and injured, Habiba moved in with her parents. Her depression grew as her fistula prevented her from seeing friends or venturing far from home. She worried that she would never find another husband or have children.

In August of 2011, Habiba received a successful fistula surgery provided by The Fistula Foundation’s partner, Worldwide Fistula Fund, which runs a dedicated fistula center in Danja, Niger. When she returned to Danja for her six-month checkup, Habiba wore the ceremonial dress that she received from Worldwide Fistula Fund after her surgery. She still holds several concerns about her future, but incontinence is no longer a barrier to living her life. Before leaving the clinic, Habiba turned to her doctors, smiled, and uttered words unfamiliar to her six months before: “I am happy.”

Obstetric fistula most commonly occurs among women who live in undeveloped countries, who give birth without any access to medical help. If a woman’s labor becomes obstructed, she could remain in excruciating pain for up to six or seven days before her baby is finally dislodged. In obstructed labor, the soft tissues between the baby’s head and the pelvic bone are compressed and do not receive adequate blood flow. The lack of blood flow causes this delicate tissue to die, and where it dies holes are created between the laboring mother’s bladder and/or rectum and her vagina. This hole is called an obstetric fistula, which renders the mother incontinent. Her baby likely dies and the mother is often rejected by her husband and pushed out of her village due to her incontinence.

While $450 isn’t enough for one night’s stay in most hospitals in the United States, it is typically enough to provide one woman in poverty with restorative fistula surgery, postoperative care and physical rehabilitation. One million women suffer from obstetric fistula, but fewer than 20,000 women are treated each year.

Fistula Foundation was founded in 2000 and now supports fistula treatment in 19 countries at 38 sites on two continents, Africa and Asia. Fistula Foundation supports more obstetric fistula surgeries globally than any other organization in the world that is not taking government funding. 80% of the funds raised by Fistula Foundation go directly toward their programs. The Foundation manages its business with a focus on efficiency and productivity.; they make every effort to maximize the funds they send to their partners in the field, because that’s where lives are changed.

Fistula Foundation is dedicated to ending the suffering caused by the childbirth injury of obstetric fistula. They believe that no woman should have to suffer a life of shame and isolation for trying to bring a child into the world.


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About the author:

Amy Schwimmer

Amy Schwimmer is Director of Operations for The Life You Can Save.

The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.