Major Milestone Reached in Global Maternal Health

10,000 Women with Fistula Receive Life-Changing Surgery

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
USAID Press Office
202-712-4320

WASHINGTON, D.C. - MARCH 25, 2009 - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and EngenderHealth announced today that 10,000 women have received surgery for fistula with U.S. support since 2005. Fistula, a devastating vaginal injury affecting millions of women in developing countries, can be surgically repaired, but most of those with the condition lack access to a skilled surgeon or health center, making treatment out of reach.

"Today, the United States has achieved a major milestone in improving global maternal health-giving 10,000 women hope for a better life. None of this would have been possible without the dedication of the local medical teams, government officials, international partners, and the support of the American people," said Gloria Steele, acting assistant administrator in USAID's Bureau for Global Health. "But our work is just beginning."

Four years ago, USAID launched a global effort to both treat and prevent fistula. To date, through initiatives such as the Fistula Care project, and in collaboration with local governments, regional healthcare organizations and faith based organizations, medical teams in 12 countries and 25 health facilities across Africa and Asia have been trained to provide surgery for fistula-which can be repaired in up to 90 percent of cases.

Fistula is an injury caused by prolonged, obstructed labor that can occur when the head of the baby cannot pass safely through the mother's birth canal. The baby often dies and the mother is left with an abnormal opening in the birth canal and chronic incontinence. If left untreated, fistula can lead to skin ulcerations and infections, kidney disease, social isolation, and even death.

Fistula is almost entirely preventable. Making voluntary family planning available to all could reduce maternal disability and death by at least 20 percent. Complementing that with skilled attendance at all births and improving access to emergency obstetric care and caesarian section could make fistula as rare as it is in the industrialized world. USAID and its partners include strong prevention efforts in their programs, engaging all levels of society - raising awareness of fistula and its underlying causes that include early pregnancy, poverty, and a lack of girls' education and women's empowerment.

USAID's Fistula care project is managed by EngenderHealth and its partners IntraHealth, CARE, Meridian Group International, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and Society for Women and AIDS in Africa (SWAA). In addition to increasing the number of trained surgeons and leading prevention efforts, Fistula Care project sites offer counseling and support to help women reintegrate into communities that may have shunned them.

Visit www.fistulacare.org for more information or contact fistulacare@engenderhealth.org

For more information about USAID and its programs, please visit: www.usaid.gov.

Last updated: May 31, 2012

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