We launched fistula care services in Malawi In 2010 before opening our own, stand-alone Fistula Care Centre (FCC) in 2012 in the grounds of Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe.
This 35 bed unit had its own dedicated operating theatre and the capacity to treat more than 400 women every year, many of whom were found through our Ambassador and community sensitisation programmes that ensure women and girls from across Malawi had access to our permanent service.
Our holistic approach to our patients encompassed a patient rehabilitation, education and empowerment programme that included access to micro-finance, a solar project, literacy and numeracy classes, as well as lessons in arts and crafts.
In order to help prevent fistulas from happening, FFF also funds access to maternal healthcare at two partner hospitals – Mtengowantenga Catholic Hospital and AchikondiCommunity Clinic. An average of 160 babies are safely delivered each month thanks to this financial support.
Additionally, with funding from Rotary International, FFF is supporting the training of 60 Nurse Midwife Technicians in order to help build capacity in maternal healthcare in Malawi.
It was with great sadness we had to report that, after 10 years running our world class Fistula Care Centre in Malawi, we are unable to continue from 2021. The Centre was requisitioned by Government in April 2020 for Covid-19 purposes. Since then, and despite our extensive efforts, we were not able to reach agreement with the Ministry of Health to return to the Centre and operate fistula services in the long term. The government is committed to integrating fistula care into the central hospital in Lilongwe from 2021 and we pray that will be successful. In our December 2020 newsletter we took theopportunity to thank our Country Director Margaret Moyo and all our staff who have worked with us over the last 10 years. Their dedication and personal commitment to help almost 3000 fistula patients went above and beyond the medical care and we couldn’t have achieved so much without them. We have been able to redeploy a small number of critical clinical staff to our other projects which ensures their skillsare not lost. It is our hope we will one day return to fistula care in Malawi and, in the meantime, we hope to increase support to our maternity partners next year in order to prevent fistulas happening in the first place.
2013 saw the start of a new training programme for the next generation of fistula carers to help ensure the long-term sustainability of fistula care in Malawi. Surgeons, nurses, medical officers and clinical officers were being trained at our Fistula Care Centre under the supervision of our Malawian fistula surgeon who was herself trained on the programme.