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Stamford, Conn. – July 23, 2012 – Hundreds more women suffering from obstetric fistulas will have access to life-changing surgery with the expansion of a fistula repair program in Tanzania supported by AmeriCares. To date, the program has restored a sense of dignity for 2,000 women suffering from this devastating condition.
In Tanzania, there are up to 3,000 new cases of obstetric fistula each year resulting largely from lack of medical care during prolonged labor. Women with fistulas experience incontinence and are often stigmatized, socially isolated and abandoned by their families. The AmeriCares-supported program at the Bugando Medical Center in Mwanza takes a holistic approach that includes surgery, post-surgical care, health worker training and education. Patients receive specialized physical therapy as well as literacy and job skills training during their six-week recovery. The program also defrays travel costs for women who cannot afford the trip to the hospital—some traveling from as far away as Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.
By expanding outreach and helping to increase the fistula program’s surgical capacity, the program will treat as many as 300 patients this year, up from 200 in previous years. The hospital will train a full-time nurse to assist patients with rehabilitation, as well as expand skills training so women can return to their communities with greater economic empowerment.
“Expanding the program will directly improve the lives of up to 300 women,” said Christoph Gorder, AmeriCares senior vice president of global programs. “Fistula can destroy a woman’s life, but the majority of cases can be corrected with surgery. This program helps ensure that more women in need get excellent care and a fresh start.”
Since 2010, AmeriCares has partnered with Ethicon, Inc., which has contributed nearly $500,000 in supplies and grants, including 20,000 sutures key to fistula repair and funds to purchase a new operating table. The company’s recent renewal of support has allowed for the program’s expansion and will continue to fund the program through June 2013.