“I say thank you to the benefactor who agreed to think of me because I did not have means.”
This is the number of women who received transportation to Panzi Hospital in Bukavu and had access to treatment and surgery.
Estimated girls & women affected
Nineteen women were provided with transportation and each communicated their story with at least one other woman.
Estimated community members affected
The General Reference Hospital of Panzi (GRHP) is located in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It opened in 1999 and in spite of numerous setbacks during the conflict in Eastern Congo, the faith-based hospital grew to a 334-bed facility offering a diverse array of medical and surgical services, including obstetric fistula care and treatment.
As the hospital’s capacity to treat women with obstetric fistula increases, clients in the near surrounding area have benefited. However, women with obstetric fistula living in the rural part of Democratic Republic of Congo have fewer options and access to quality health care and the advanced surgical skills needed for successful surgical interventions. Our collaboration with Catapult, and your generous support, addressed the transportation needs of women with complex fistula living in remote areas of DRC.
In September 2013, 19 clients ranging from 14 to 61 years old were transported from Lubao and Kongolo regions to the hospital in Bukavu. Your donations paid for the transportation of these women. Once at the hospital they received obstetric fistula repair and treatment. Twelve women received successful repair and seven women received treatment such as physical therapy. Given the long distance and very expensive transportation costs in the region, reaching Panzi hospital would have been impossible without your help. The treatment costs were supported through the Fistula Care project.
A quote from Benedict*, “After a home birth without medical assistance, I was unsuccessfully operated on in 2009. In 2011, I was diagnosed with a complex fistula and the doctors from Panzi hospital asked me to continue my treatment there. I say thank you to the benefactor who agreed to think of me because I did not have means.”
*not her real name
Risks and challenges
It is notoriously difficult to travel around the Democratic Republic of Congo. Roads are poorly maintained, if they exist at all, and safety from armed rebel and government groups is a constant source of trepidation for travelers. When road aren’t a possibility, the only other alternative is air transportation where there are also safety and security concerns, and well out of reach for most Congolese, and especially so for all the women with fistula who were identified to participate in this funding cycle. The typical fistula client is not formally educated, is from a disadvantaged socio-economic status, and is low resourced and not able to afford exorbitant transportation costs.
What we’ve learned
It is nearly impossible for women with fistula to support their own travel to the hospital, since it is a long, costly journey which requires ground and air transportation. It is necessary for an outreach team to first travel to these sites to inform women of their options prior to arranging for them to travel to Bukavu. Luckily it was part of the Fistula Care project’s budget to support travel for a counselor to Lubao and Kongolo to be part of this outreach team, so they were able to start counseling prior to travel.
Panzi hospital has reinsertion programs for women post-repair in orther to support them.
These funds supported a round trip transportation package for women to travel from their home in Lubao, Kasai Orientale to Bukavu. Transportation package includes expenses for air and car. There is no direct route from Lubao to Bukavu so the women and Panzi hospital staff traveled via car to Kongolo then via air to Bukavu.
Amount spent so far
Round trip travel to Panzi hopsital
19 Steps Closer to a Fistula-Free Generation in the DRC
As the General Reference Hospital of Panzi’s (GRHP) capacity to treat women with obstetric fistula increases, women in the near surrounding area have benefited. But women with obstetric fistula living in the rural part of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have fewer options and access to quality health care and the advanced surgical skills needed for successful surgical interventions.
It is nearly impossible for women with fistula to support their own travel to the hospital since it is a long, costly journey which requires ground and air transportation. Our collaboration with Catapult, “Journey to the hospital for life changing surgery,” funded the transportation of 19 women with complex fistula living in remote areas of DRC, Lubao in Kasai Orientale to HGR Panzi in Bukavu. Catapult awarded $15,000 to facilitate the travel of women from their homes to Bukavu where an expert team provided care and treatment.
Risks and challenges
It is notoriously difficult to travel around the Democratic Republic of Congo. Roads are poorly maintained if they exist at all and safety from armed rebel and government groups is a constant source of trepidation for travelers.
When roads aren’t a possibility, the only other alternative is air transportation where there are also safety and security concerns and well out of reach for most Congolese and especially so for all the women with fistula who were identified for this project. The photo below is an example of a typical “bridge” the team and women had to cross while driving from Lubao to Kongolo. Renting a 4x4 was imperative to traverse the roads and waterways.
A quote from Rose*
“Because I suffered from fistula for many years, I would not refuse care regardless of location because I have seen other patients who had…been treated and cured, but also because of poverty I could not get treatment, thank you God who sent you to help me.”
*not her real name
Currently 19 women transported from Lubao in Kasai Orientale to HGR Panzi in Bukavu are awaiting care and treatment. Some were able to receive surgical intervention as soon as they arrived, other are waiting for other medical conditions to clear up. We will report on the surgical outcomes in our next report.
Final financial reports have not been submitted since several of the women are still at the hospital awaiting treatment. A more detailed report will be submitted with the next report. These funds will support a round trip transportation package for women to travel from their home in Lubao, Kasai Orientale to Bukavu.
All people photographed signed consent forms. Photos: A group of women await consultation with the HGR Panzi Ob/Gyn. An example of a typical “bridge” the team and women had to cross while driving from Lubao to Kongolo. Renting a 4x4 was imperative to traverse the roads and waterways. A woman with fistula receives examination to confirm diagnosis before her trip to HGR Panzi in Bukavu. A group of women diagnosed with fistula await transport to HGR Panzi in Bukavu.
Visit the DR Congo Obstetric Fistula Community of Practice (CoP) online message board to read about our collaboration with Catapult and more about our work in the DRC!
Enable 10 women with fistula* the opportunity to travel to a hospital for life-changing repair surgery.
Why we care: In up to 90% of cases, fistula can be surgically repaired, if women have access to a trained surgeon at an equipped hospital providing fistula repair.
How we're solving this: An expert team of urogynecologists from the United States will provide surgery for 10 women from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with complex fistula.
During two trips over the coming months, these urogynecologists will offer surgery at a regional, referral hospital for 10 women with complex fistula. These women live in remote areas of the DRC. It is nearly impossible for them to support their own travel to the hospital safely—as it is a long, costly journey. Round-trip ground and flight transportation costs $1,500 per woman.
The urogynecologists will also mentor local surgeons in surgical techniques required for these repairs. All costs for the urogynecologists will be paid for by the EngenderHealth-led Fistula Care project.
Since 2008, EngenderHealth has worked to improve the quality of and access to health services in the DRC. Working with six facilities throughout country, we partner to address the needs of women with obstetric and traumatic gynecologic fistula and build the capacity of hospitals and providers who care for the women. The main focus is reducing the number of new fistula cases and providing surgical treatment to those suffering from fistula.
*Fistula is a hole that develops between the birth canal and one or more of a woman's internal organs. Fistula affects more than 2 million girls and women in the developing world.