Eliminating obstetric fistula in Liberia (2008-2018)

Since 2008, Zonta International has provided US$2,550,000 to UNFPA to support the Liberia Fistula Project. More than 1,000 women and adolescent girls received treatment and more than 200 fistula survivors completed the rehabilitation program and were successfully reintegrated into their communities.

The number of new fistula cases was decreasing and more recurrent cases were emerging; however, in 2014, Liberia was hit by the Ebola outbreak. The already fragile health system was overwhelmed and unable to adequately address the needs of women who needed maternal health services. Pregnant women were turned away from health facilities or not attended to by skilled health workers for fear of contracting Ebola. As a result, the number of new cases of fistula once again began to rise and now represent 85 percent of the cases treated since fistula surgeries resumed in early 2015.

Zonta International has committed an additional US$1,000,000 to the Liberia Fistula Project from 2016 to 2018.

What is obstetric fistula?

Obstetric fistula is a childbirth injury usually caused by prolonged, obstructed labor without timely medical intervention, usually a caesarean section. During unassisted, prolonged labor, the sustained pressure of the baby’s head on the mother’s pelvic bone damages her soft tissues and pelvic nerves, creating a hole – or fistula – between the vagina and bladder and/or rectum, resulting in constant leaking of urine and/or feces through the vagina. In most cases, the baby is stillborn; and, in some cases, the mother is left paralyzed.

In addition to the physical consequences, fistula can also have social and psychological effects on women. Often there is stigma associated with this condition, and women suffering from fistula are abandoned by their families and marginalized by their communities.

How Zonta helps

With properly trained surgeons, appropriately equipped facilities and the necessary aftercare, the treatment of uncomplicated obstetric fistula has a 90 percent success rate. The average cost of a fistula surgery and post-operative care is approximately US$400, while the cost of social rehabilitation for a fistula survivor (provision of skills training and psychosocial support) is on average US$1,300.

Zonta International’s contribution of US$1 million will:

  • Integrate obstetric fistula into maternal and child health services
  • Expand treatment services without compromising quality
  • Enhance advocacy, community mobilization and health promotion activities
  • Coordinate fistula activities and partner with government ministries and training institutions
  • Maintain the rehabilitation and reintegration components

As a result, the project will:

  • Improve the health and socio-economic status of more than 500 women and young girls in Liberia
  • Reduce the incidence of obstetric and traumatic fistula by 25 percent
  • Provide quality surgical and non-surgical treatment for 500 women and girls living with obstetric or traumatic fistula
  • Identify and empower 60 inoperable fistula survivors
  • Increase knowledge of obstetric fistula in 50 targeted communities throughout Liberia
  • Improve capacity of 50 local health practitioners to manage the clinical and public health aspects of obstetric fistula in Liberia
  • Train eight specialist doctors in obstetric fistula management and care

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Project Update - July 2017 ChineseFrenchGermanJapaneseKoreanSpanish




Since the inception of the Liberia Fistula Project, the dignity of many women and girls has been restored.  Read a new report from the project, as well as stories about women who have benefited from the project.
A new report on the Liberia Fistula Project from the period of 1 January – 30 June 2017 is now available.
Read an update that reports on the Liberia Fistula program's activities from 2016.