Fistula Foundation focuses exclusively on delivering fistula 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.
While $586 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 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.
Peter SingerObstetric fistula is a hidden tragedy that devastates lives. Fistula Foundation runs a high-quality, cost-effective global program, which I am proud to support.
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 list of 22 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.
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.
Obstetric fistula is one of humanity’s most disabling injuries, but it can be cured by a surgery that costs $586. From a health metrics standpoint, healing a woman with fistula is a highly effective intervention—comparing favorably with vaccines and bed nets.
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. Learn more about
- Peter Singer’s TED Talk: The Why and How of Effective Altruism
- The Atlantic Magazine: The Greatest Good
- Forbes: Making The Most Impact When You Donate
- Wikipedia: Effective Altruism
One way of measuring the high impact of fistula surgery is through the lens of “quality-adjusted life-years.” Known as QALYs, this metric considers both the quality and the quantity of life saved through a health intervention. Fistula’s QALY measurement proves that fistula repair surgery is a highly effective investment in women’s health.
For example, by healing a woman who is leaking urine uncontrollably due to fistula, you can give her an estimated 14 QALYs—14 years of improved life. Healing a woman who is leaking feces due to fistula gives her an estimated 21 QALYs—21 years of improved life. This means fistula surgery costs only $28-$42 per year of improved life.
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
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.