What is fistula?

“My condition caused a great strain on my marriage. I was too ashamed to tell him of my problem as I had never heard of anyone suffering from my condition and so I suffered silently.”

Sarah, age 33

What is fistula?

An estimated 2 million women in Africa suffer silently with an obstetric fistula.

A fistula usually occurs during an obstructed labour when emergency care is unavailable.

Women suffering from obstructed labour often struggle until the baby dies and during this agonising process, loss of circulation causes tissue to die, leaving large gaps between the birth canal and bladder or rectum, causing incontinence.

Most women suffering with obstetric fistula are ostracised by their families and communities as they smell and are constantly wet, leaving them to live as outcasts.

In the West, obstetric fistulas do occur occasionally but there are teams of medical professionals to care for the mother and baby and to repair the fistula straight away.

In contrast, it occurs to thousands of women in Africa every day and they have no-one to help.

The prevalence of childbirth-related injuries in Africa largely goes unnoticed in the West yet millions of women suffer every day.

Sierra Leone has the highest documented incidence of maternal mortality in the world.  In Liberia, the statistics don’t even exist.

The women we are helping are just like you - mothers, daughters, sisters, friends...


These women deserve to be more than statistics, they deserve decent healthcare when they bring their children into the world.