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USAID Awards $70 Million for the Prevention and Treatment of Obstetric Fistula
Date:2/14/2008

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a $70 million, five-year program to prevent and treat obstetric fistula in developing countries. Fistula Care aims to increase access to emergency obstetrical care and will work with hospitals to strengthen their capacity to provide surgical fistula repair. The program will also work with community groups and individuals to increase understanding about obstetric fistula and steps to prevent this condition. In addition, Fistula Care will conduct research to strengthen the quality of fistula services and will work toward the institutionalization of fistula prevention, repair and reintegration programs in developing countries.

Obstetric fistula is caused by prolonged, obstructed labor and can be prevented and treated through appropriate obstetric care. However, most women in the developing world lack access and funds for the required medical care. If left untreated, obstetric fistula can lead to a still born baby and, for the mother, incontinence, frequent ulcers and infections, kidney disease, possible paralysis and even death. The ability to treat fistula is further complicated by a shortage of skilled surgeons in developing countries, as well as a lack of equipment and supplies and lengthy hospital stays, which all put a strain on local health budgets. Obstetric fistula is of particular concern in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

In 2004, USAID began supporting projects to build the capacity of local health care providers in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Niger, Mali and Bangladesh. In 2006, USAID also supported Mercy Ships in Ghana and Sierra Leone. Mercy Ships is an international organization that operates a fleet of hospital ships that provide necessary health care to the poor. The Agency will be supporting Mercy Ships in Liberia in 2008 that will not only provide medical care, but will also help to train surgeons and build medical center capacity in Sierra Leone. In addition, USAID supports regional activities for increased awareness, advocacy and prevention of both obstetric and traumatic gynecologic fistula in East Africa and West Africa. USAID's maternal health programs also raise awareness on how to prevent obstetric fistula by using skilled birth attendants, and they encourage emergency obstetric care to treat prolonged and obstructed labor. Equally important, USAID's voluntary family planning and education programs help very young women avoid early pregnancy and offer information and services to women who have had fistula repair surgery, so they can plan their next pregnancy.

Fistula Care will be implemented by EngenderHealth, in partnership with IntraHealth, CARE, Meridian Group International, ADRA and SWAA. The project will work with public sector, private sector and non-governmental and faith-based institutions, both national and international, to provide a full range of fistula care services for women living in developing countries.

For more information about USAID and its maternal health programs, visit http://www.usaid.gov.

The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for nearly 50 years.

CONTACT: USAID Public Information, +1-202-712-4810


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SOURCE U.S. Agency for International Development
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