Closing Out the Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund

Thanks to your light, a dark chapter closes.

None of us will soon forget March 2020. At Fistula Foundation, the Covid-19 pandemic—and subsequent shutdown of life as we knew it—marked the beginning of a never-before-seen need from our partners. Our healthcare heroes were putting their lives on the line, in a time of great anxiety and fear. We knew that we had to do something big

With unanimous support from our board of directors, we amended our Articles of Incorporation and launched the Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund in April 2020.

A sign at the entrance to our partner facility Comprehensive Community-Based Care in Tanzania.

Three years and thousands of saved lives later, a dark chapter closes. As of today, we have disbursed all funds raised from that campaign. Between May 2020 and January 2023, we awarded a little more than $1.8 million in Covid response funding to 48 partners in 17 countries.

After lockdowns and travel restrictions severely limited our partners’ cash flow, the support from donors to the Covid fund gave our partners the resources that they needed to purchase PPE (personal protective equipment) and infection control supplies, to buy life-saving equipment like oxygen cylinders, to pay staff salaries and prevent layoffs, to train medical professionals in Covid prevention and response, and to cover operating expenses like rent and utilities.

You became a lifeline for the heroes who were saving everyones lives.

The majority of funds disbursed to partners were used to purchase critical PPE and to cover staff salaries.

Gratitude for Your Support

Over the duration of the fund, our partners expressed their gratitude for the extraordinary support that they received to protect themselves and their patients from Covid.

Bwalya Chomba (in red), program director for Zambia, hands over a donation of PPE, cleaning materials, and bedding to Dr. Chelu, medical superintendent of our partner Mansa General Hospital in Zambia.

“We have always had an adequate supply of masks, gloves, and protective clothing and cleaning materials, thanks to your generous support.”

—International Nepal Fellowship, Nepal

A Covid patient receives treatment at Kathmandu Model Hospital in Nepal in 2021.

“The support from Fistula Foundation has been meaningful to ARENA. Our staff has been trained in infection control and prevention, and we have been able to start implementing a policy of prevention in the facility. The procurement of PPE and medical consumables have [helped] to increase the quality of care for our patients.”

—Association Renaissance (ARENA), Burkina Faso

Mr. Lebon, a staff member at Butembo Fistula Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, inaugurated the handwashing station at this facility, after receiving training in infection control.

“Covid-19 has significantly affected fistula activities at our facilities. With the Covid Emergency Response Fund, we have managed to continue with routine surgery, despite the pandemic situation.”

—FisPro DRC, Democratic Republic of Congo

A fistula patient at Bomu Hospital in Kenya receives masks and sanitizer. More than 200 patients at Bomu benefited from free PPE, Covid tests, and medication, thanks to the Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund.

Healing Fistula Patients During a Pandemic

While Covid-related shutdowns affected our partners’ ability to conduct surgeries in the early months of the pandemic, most partners were able to resume fistula treatment in the second half of 2020. Thanks to their dedication, these extraordinary surgical teams and hospitals provided 6,833 women with life-changing surgery that year. Fistula surgeries decreased by nearly two-thirds in the second quarter of 2020, but they made an astounding rebound by the fourth quarter. In fact, our partners performed 13% more surgeries that quarter than they did in the fourth quarter of 2019.

One Woman’s Story: Jaikali from Nepal

Jaikali is a 52-year-old woman from Kalikot, Nepal. During the delivery of her fifth child, when she was in her thirties, Jaikali endured a labor that lasted for more than one week. On the ninth day of labor, she delivered a stillborn baby. From then on, she leaked urine uncontrollably. She suffered with this condition for some 20 years, since she and her husband could not afford to seek treatment for it. 

In 2021, Jaikali met the fistula outreach team from International Nepal Fellowship (INF), when the team was visiting her village. Upon learning that healing was possible, she was eager to receive treatment at  INF’s Surkhet Fistula Centre. Unfortunately, because of the Covid lockdown, travel was not an option. As she waited out the pandemic, the months ticked by, and Jaikali became very ill. She developed severe breathing problems, and her whole body seemed to slow down. She was taken to a local hospital for treatment, but her condition did not improve. As soon as travel was permissible, Jaikali’s husband took out a loan to bring her to the treatment center.

When doctors at the center met her, she was swollen from head to toe. She could barely sit and was fighting for breath. Jaikali tested positive for Covid and was immediately transferred to the Covid ward of a provincial hospital. Doctors there determined that she was suffering from severe chronic lung disease, which had led to heart failure. They did everything they could to keep her alive as she fought Covid. Then, after recovering from Covid, her condition improved enough to be transferred back to the fistula center. 

However, Jaikali was still unfit for surgery. She needed continuous oxygen support, and was severely malnourished. Little by little, doctors built up her strength. Finally, in March 2022, a surgical team was able to operate on Jaikali’s fistula. But because of her other health issues, her recovery was long. According to doctors at Surkhet, the oxygen concentrator provided by Fistula Foundation was in constant use.

Five months after arriving at Surkhet, and one fistula surgery later, Jaikali went home, vastly better than before. Then she learned that another surgery was required to heal her fistula completely. In September 2022, Jaikali came back to the Surkhet Fistula Centre, where she was able to benefit from a visit by expert fistula surgeon Dr. Andrew Browning. This time, when doctors removed the catheter, she was dry! 

Neither Covid nor a chronic lung disease could keep Jaikali from accessing treatment for her fistula. Support from people like you made her recovery from Covid—and her treatment for fistula—possible. Today, she is healthy at last, and so very grateful for the support of donors like you, and for the care that she received at INF.

Jaikali (right) with Dr. Shuvechchha Dewa Shrestha (left), a fistula surgeon-in-training at International Nepal Fellowship.

We Can’t Thank You Enough!

Three years after it launched, the Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund is closed, and partners and patients have what they need to keep safe, while preventing and treating infection. Thank you to everyone who donated to our emergency response fund. You were a part of something life-changing—something big.


Published on February 14, 2023

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