Breaking Ground for Better Care in Zambia

Construction begins on a dedicated fistula ward at St. Francis Mission Hospital

On Tuesday, February 7, Team Zambia broke ground on a capital project at St. Francis Mission Hospital, one of our partner facilities in the Fistula Foundation Treatment Network (FFTN) in Zambia. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the facility in Katete to commemorate the start of construction on a 30-bed ward that will be dedicated to treating fistula patients.

Once built, the fistula ward at St. Francis will be fully equipped with medical supplies, furniture, and linen. Construction will last seven months, with an opening date planned for August.

Team Zambia gathers during a ceremony to break ground on a new fistula ward at St. Francis Mission Hospital.
The hospital serves a population of more than two million inhabitants, many of whom live in poverty. According to the Zambia Demographic Survey of 2018, 83 percent of the rural population of Zambia lives in poverty, with limited access to health services. (This is true of 56 percent of the urban population).

Currently, the facility lacks dedicated space for fistula patients, so women are separated into different wards within the hospital. This limits the hospital’s ability to perform life-transforming surgeries and to provide the highest-quality of care for patients. It also hinders group counseling efforts.

The new ward, once opened, will accommodate routine fistula surgery throughout the year. At present, St. Francis offers only semi-routine fistula treatment, consisting of quarterly outreach efforts that are conducted at the hospital. (It is the only treatment site in the Eastern province of Zambia that offers any kind of fistula care.) When the new ward opens, it will host a resident fistula surgeon who will provide routine surgery.

Staff at St. Francis estimate that, with a specially designed ward for fistula patients, they will be able to perform 20% more surgeries than they perform now, and that they will provide a higher-quality hospital stay to these patients.

“I’m excited because the new ward will stand the test of time, and show the contribution that Fistula Foundation has made in providing quality surgery to patients and supporting our local partners,” said Bwalya Chomba, program director for Zambia. “In 2017, when we launched the FFTN, this seemed impossible. Thanks go to our donors and to everyone in the St. Francis Mission Hospital community.” 

The surgery that women receive at St. Francis restores their hope for the future, and sets them on a path to rebuilding their lives post-fistula. 

As part of the groundbreaking festivities, five fistula survivors who were treated at St. Francis received certificates of completion upon graduation from a six-month tailoring and design course at the Community Development Training Institute. Each survivor received a sewing machine, a sewing kit, chitenge cloth, and some startup capital to help her jumpstart her business.

Angela, a fistula survivor from Sinda District, receives her certificate of completion in tailoring and design at St. Francis Mission Hospital in Katete, Zambia.

Published on February 22, 2023

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