February 24, 2012

Danja fistula center opens in West Africa

The Worldwide Fistula Fund (WFF) recently opened a new obstetric fistula treatment hospital in Danja, Niger. The dedication ceremony was attended by the Minister of Health of Niger, Professor C.O. Onyebuchi Chukwu, who cut the ribbon to open the clinic and spent time encouraging patients to stay strong and live with purpose after their surgeries. Invited authorities included United States Ambassador Bisa Williams and other high-ranking government officials.

The Danja Fistula Center, which will offer short- and long-term services to women suffering from fistula, will also function as a training and research facility for medical professionals. Key goals in the first five years of operation include providing care for up to 2,500 fistula patients and training at least 30 doctors from African countries.

“We will also develop community-based outreach programs to help in the prevention of obstructed labor, the major cause of fistula, and institute far-reaching rehabilitation programs to help fistula patients develop economic opportunities for themselves and their families,” said Mark Shaker, executive director of the WFF.

The 42-bed hospital offers a full service clinic, pharmacy, lab, three-table operating theater, and 96-person long stay hostel. The facility provides free obstetric fistula surgery and after-care treatment to patients from Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.

“The Danja Fistula Center operates with a multi-tiered approach to obstetric fistula,” explained L. Lewis Wall, MD, founder of the WFF. “We believe in treating the whole woman and plan to offer a full roster of social reintegration activities, including vocational training, literacy initiatives and microfinance opportunities, to help our patients thrive long after their surgeries are completed.”

The Center is also developing and performing evidence-based research around obstetric fistula and maternal health care to better establish needs, treatment opportunities and areas of focus.

“We believe that the Center can be a model to guide the construction and operation of additional fistula treatment facilities throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where there is limited access to maternal health care,” said Dr. Steven Arrowsmith, clinical consultant at the Danja Fistula Center.

The hospital is staffed by a team of specialists from the United States, Australia and Africa, including a medical director, administrator, anesthesiologist, physical therapist, nurses, nurses’ aides – including one of the WFF’s former patients – and trained prevention and social reintegration professionals.

In the opening week, there were nearly 70 women awaiting treatment. Three surgeries were carried out with success in the first day of clinical care. “These ladies are often not honored or even respected in their daily lives. We are able to give them the treatment they need to regain the lives they deserve," added Mark Shaker.

Find out more about the Worldwide Fistula Fund and the Danja Fistula Center at

Top photo: Rita Steele.