When a woman is injured with obstetric fistula, she leaks urine or feces uncontrollably. She’s often shunned by her husband and community. Rejected and ridiculed, she lives in isolation and shame. More than 2 million women and girls endure this reality around the world, but Worldwide Fistula Fund is working to restore their dignity and stop this devastating injury from plaguing future generations.
Obstetric fistula is an immediate result of prolonged, obstructed labor. Pressure from the baby kills soft tissue, creating a hole between a woman’s vagina and bladder or rectum that leaks uncontrollably. The baby usually dies, and her foul odor leaves her isolated from others.
In the developed world, an OB-GYN can perform an emergency C-section to prevent harm to the mother and save the baby. In parts of the world with limited access to emergency obstetric care, home births, or births in minimally equipped “clinics” without skilled birth attendants, are common.
Worldwide Fistula Fund believes solving world problems such as obstetric fistula and other devastating childbirth injuries is accomplished by finding and developing local leaders. Worldwide Fistula Fund is an incubator, funder, and promoter of innovative solutions to improve global women’s reproductive health in sub-Saharan Africa.
We provide survivors with life-changing surgery and vocational skills training to help them earn an income and reintegrate into society after treatment. We also train and develop local leaders and medical professionals to strengthen a communities’ ability to prevent these injuries from devastating more mothers just trying to bring new life into the world.
In the late 1970s while conducting anthropological field research, Lewis Wall witnessed how inadequate healthcare systems in sub-Saharan Africa had devastating effects on women and children. He returned to medical school to become an OB-GYN and dedicated his life to addressing the maternal health challenges faced by women in Africa, focused on childbirth injuries. Dr. Lewis Wall founded the not-for-profit Worldwide Fund for Mothers Injured in Childbirth in 1995. We relaunched in 2003 as the Worldwide Fistula Fund (WFF). We have historically focused on programs addressing obstetric fistula in sub-Saharan Africa: prevention education, expert surgical services with comprehensive care for recovery and reintegration/empowerment training to begin life anew.
WFF began by funding multiple programs and training doctors across sub-Saharan Africa to provide quality fistula repair surgeries. Providers we supported: Evangel VVF Centre in Nigeria, Aberdeen Clinic and Fistula Center in Sierra Leone, Mercy Maternity and Fistula Center in Ghana and MercyShips. Countries where we provided surgical training: Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo and Benin.
During these early years, we simultaneously raised capital funds to build a new, desperately needed model fistula hospital for west Africa. In 2009, 2010 and 2013, Pulitzer prize winning columnist, Nicholas Kristof, wrote New York Times articles about WFF’s mission and goal to build this hospital.
In 2012, we opened Danja Fistula Center in Niger with our operational partner, SIM. WFF currently has active programs in Niger, Uganda, and Ethiopia delivering fistula treatment, reintegration & empowerment programs and medical professional & health advocate training.
Guiding our mission and strategic plan is a Leadership Team which includes a Trustee of the International Continence Society, Clinicians in Obstetrics and Urogynecology, Professors in Global Health, Medical Anthropology and Physical Therapy, Experts in health delivery to increase access to care and Captains of industry.