We focus on delivering the greatest good

Obstetric fistula ranks as one of humanity’s most disabling injuries—but it can be cured by a surgery that costs $619.

Fistula Foundation focuses on delivering fistula and perineal tear repair surgery because of its enormous impact.

With each surgery we provide, we know that we can help change one woman’s world forever. And we know that the ripple effect of her restored health—on both her family and community—is profound.

How do we determine the cost of one repair surgery?

While $619 isn’t enough for one night’s stay in most hospitals in the United States, aggregated data from our current grantee partners shows that this is typically enough to provide one woman in Africa or Asia with fistula or perineal tear repair surgery.

Actual surgical costs vary depending on the local economies and healthcare infrastructure where our partners work. The costs for more complicated surgeries, such as treating dual vaginal and rectal fistula, can be greater.

We aim to maximize the return on our donors’ generosity

Nothing has been more important to our success than deciding to focus on one critical and measurable outcome: repair surgeries for women injured in childbirth. We resist the urge to be all things to all people, supporting only those activities that directly enable the treatment of women with fistula and severe perineal tears. This focus allows us to closely track results and continually improve our efforts.  As a lean, “learning” organization, we adhere to:

Obstetric fistula is a hidden tragedy that devastates lives. Fistula Foundation runs a high-quality, cost-effective global program, which I am proud to support.
Peter Singer Founder, The Life You Can Save

Doing good, better

The Life You Can Save (TLYCS) is a leading organization in the effective altruism movement founded by Princeton ethicist Peter Singer. TLYCS maintains a short list of charities that it believes provide the greatest good for funds spent. Fistula Foundation continues to be a part of this small group of worthy organizations.

What is effective altruism?

Effective altruism is an approach to philanthropic giving that focuses on maximizing the good from one’s charitable donations. This evidence-based approach first identifies issues where the next dollar spent could have the greatest impact on human welfare, and then supports the most effective charities tackling these issues. 

In his book, The Life You Can Save, ethicist Peter Singer asserts charities operating effectively in low-resource countries—where poverty and its effects are most pronounced—are best positioned to make the largest impact.

Background resources:

What is the health burden of obstetric fistula?

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) compares the burden of different health conditions through a relative-weight metric. A weight of 0 means perfect health, and a weight of 1 means death.

The IHME rates Vesico-vaginal fistula (incontinence of urine) at 0.342, putting it on par with complete hearing loss and drug-resistant tuberculosis. It rates recto-vaginal fistula (incontinence of feces) at 0.501—on par with terminal cancer.

How does Fistula Foundation make sure donations are used as intended?

We are committed to getting as much money as possible to our trusted partners in the field, because that’s where women’s lives are changed. 

To ensure funding goes to the most respected local doctors and hospitals in Africa and Asia, Fistula Foundation issues grants on an invitation-only basis. Learn about our partner selection process

Surgeons and hospitals that receive funding from Fistula Foundation are required to provide quarterly progress reports detailing their project activities and costs, surgical outcomes, and any challenges encountered. Fistula Foundation only releases funds once a partner’s report has been reviewed by our Medical Advisor and Program Development staff.

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