Astellas today announces that, just over a year on from the launch of Action on Fistula, 582 Kenyan women with obstetric fistula have successfully been treated with life changing reconstructive surgery. One woman treated had waited 51 years for surgery, and the age range of individuals helped so far spans from seven to 90 years old.
Action on Fistula is led by the charity Fistula Foundation and funded by Astellas Pharma EMEA. By mid‐2017, the initiative aims to transform the lives of more than 1,200 women in Kenya living with this condition and to build capacity in the country to deliver on‐going surgeries in the long term.
Ken Jones, President & CEO of Astellas Pharma EMEA, said, “Fistula is a condition that devastates the lives of women. In addition to the physical impact of incontinence, it leaves many women ostracised from their families and communities. Action on Fistula has been created to reach and treat women suffering the consequences of this condition.
“We know that one of the key obstacles to treating women in Kenya is the lack of appropriately trained surgeons. Action on Fistula is addressing this need by increasing the capacity for fistula surgery in Kenya and we are delighted that over 550 women have already been treated.
“We look forward to continuing our relationship with the Fistula Foundation so that many more women can receive this life changing treatment in the future.”
Access to services for women suffering from obstetric fistula is being extended through a new national Fistula Treatment Network, with four treatment centres already enrolled and providing fistula surgeries.
Gynocare Fistula Centre, in Eldoret, is the first treatment unit in Kenya to be accredited by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) and the first two surgeons supported by Action on Fistula have begun training to become experts in fistula treatment.
In order to ensure that women living with fistula in rural communities can be helped, Action on Fistula is running a major outreach programme, with community workers being trained to identify and encourage patients to access treatment. Five local organisations have trained 136 community health workers, conducted 850 outreach activities and reached 60,000 community members in 18 counties.
Kate Grant, CEO, Fistula Foundation, comments, “Together with Astellas Pharma EMEA, we are already transforming lives in Kenya. Women are receiving life changing care faster than they would have otherwise, medical facilities are better equipped to help treat more women, and our outreach partners are expanding their reach into more rural, remote parts of the country, where they are identifying and referring new patients for treatment.
“In addition, because of the programme, dedicated surgeons in Kenya now have access to advanced training provided in partnership with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.”
An obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labour when emergency care is unavailable, causing either faecal or urinary incontinence or both conditions. Whilst virtually eradicated in developed countries, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates 3,000 new cases of obstetric fistula occur annually in Kenya, with approximately one to two fistulas for every 1,000 deliveries.
Obstetric fistula sufferers are too often subject to severe social stigma due to odour, which is constant and humiliating, often driving the patients' family, friends and neighbours away. Stigmatised, these women are also often denied access to education and employment and left to live lives of isolation and poverty. Untreated, fistula can lead to chronic medical problems including ulcerations and kidney disease.
Alongside funding this programme, Astellas is actively encouraging and enabling employees to fundraise to support fistula treatment and welcomes other interested parties to contact the Fistula Foundation. For every €350 raised, an additional woman can receive life changing surgery.