What is a Fistula?

A fistula is a hole that develops between hollow organs and spaces in the body as a result of injury or infection. Vesicovaginal fistulas (VVF) are most often a result of prolonged labor, during which pressure from the baby’s head cuts off the blood supply to tissue in the vagina, bladder, and rectum.

As a result, the tissue dies, leaving the woman incontinent with urine, or sometimes feces (rectovaginal fistula-RVF), leaking constantly from her body.

The reported prevalence of VVF is 2 million women worldwide. The incidence of this condition is concentrated mainly among developing nations, and the UN states that its occurrence is significantly underestimated because that number reflects only those women who have access to medical facilities.

It is estimated that 2,000 women in Sierra Leone develop VVF annually

Once the fistula develops, the social consequences for these women are severe:
• They are often shunned by their villages, families, and husbands
• They are unable to find work because no one wants to be near an “unclean” woman
• Some stop eating and drinking in order to manage their condition
• Many disappear to the streets or commit suicide

VVF and RVF are treatable, preventable conditions with which no woman should suffer

• The success rate for fistula repair is 90% in uncomplicated cases
• It costs approximately $300 per patient for each procedure, including pre- and post-operative care


100% of each donated dollar contributes directly toward patient care and/or hospital infrastructure.

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Contributions to AWASH are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
AWASH’s tax identification number is 27-0201161.

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