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November 8, 2013

USAID and EngenderHealth Announce Progress toward Achieving a Fistula-Free Generation

New York (September 10, 2013) — Government officials, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, doctors, and health care providers from around the world will gather in Uganda this week to recognize the advancements made in the prevention and treatment of fistula, a devastating childbirth injury. Global and local leaders from EngenderHealth, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Fistula Care, a program led by EngenderHealth and funded by USAID since 2007, will share lessons learned and chart the way forward toward achieving a fistula-free generation.

Obstetric fistula, a hole that develops between the birth canal and one or more of a woman’s internal organs, is caused by obstructed labor without access to timely and skilled medical care, such as cesarean section. Women living with fistula uncontrollably and continuously leak urine and/or feces. An estimated 2 million girls and women in Africa and Asia are living with fistula, with approximately 50,000 new cases annually.

“Together, with local governments, regional health care organizations, faith-based groups, and other partners, EngenderHealth and USAID have made significant progress toward transforming the health and lives of women living with fistula, as well as addressing barriers that lead to fistula in the first place,” said Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, Assistant Administrator of Global Health at USAID.

USAID, EngenderHealth, and other partners have improved access to and quality of fistula care—both prevention and treatment—at 57 health facilities in 15 countries across Africa and Asia. USAID has funded more than 30,000 fistula repair surgeries, most of which have been through Fistula Care. Also, Fistula Care has trained more than 33,000 individuals, including surgeons, nurses, and health care and community outreach workers, on fistula prevention, surgical repair, and care, thereby creating a sustained network that can provide ongoing treatment for the enormous backlog of women living with fistula and awaiting surgery.

Fistula Care has been a driving force in increasing the evidence about ways in which to standardize fistula care, including prevention services, surgical techniques, and counseling, which can have a huge impact on women’s health. For example, Fistula Care collaborated with the World Health Organization (WHO) on a randomized controlled trial on a procedure that could potentially reduce the occurrence of complications and the length of the hospital stay required after surgery.

“We have the ability to make fistula as rare in Africa and Asia as it is in the Americas and Europe today. With continued investment and attention, we can accomplish our ultimate goal of achieving a fistula-free generation for women, families, and communities around the world,” says Pamela W. Barnes, President and CEO of EngenderHealth.

To date, through EngenderHealth, USAID, and local partners, Fistula Care has also:

  • Partnered with international and local organizations in Africa and Asia to set up operating rooms, train surgical teams, deliver medical equipment, and establish policies, standards, guidelines, training tools, and monitoring systems.
  • Advocated for policy changes to tackle root causes of fistula, including family planning, early marriage, and poor access to emergency obstetric care.
  • Implemented local solutions to raise community awareness about fistula prevention and treatment and to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality.

About EngenderHealth

EngenderHealth is a leading global women’s health organization that is working to ensure that every pregnancy is planned, every child is wanted, and every mother has the best chance at survival. We train health care professionals and partner with governments and communities in more than 20 countries around the world. For more information, visit www.engenderhealth.org.


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an independent agency that provides economic, development, and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States. As stated in the President’s National Security Strategy, USAID’s work in development joins diplomacy and defense as one of three key pieces of the nation’s foreign policy apparatus. USAID promotes peace and stability by fostering economic growth, protecting human health, providing emergency humanitarian assistance, and enhancing democracy in developing countries. These efforts to improve the lives of millions of people worldwide represent U.S. values and advance U.S. interests for peace and prosperity. www.usaid.gov.

About Fistula Care

EngenderHealth leads Fistula Care, a major global project to treat and prevent fistula. Funded by USAID, Fistula Care supports safe and effective services that address the complex physical, emotional, and social dimensions of this tragic problem. For more information, visit www.fistulacare.org.

Media contact:
Julie Rosenfeld
(212) 593-6356

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