INTERNATIONAL DAY TO END OBSTETRIC FISTULA
Every year, on May 23, we join together with our global community to celebrate and acknowledge International Day to End Obstetric Fistula (IDEOF). On this day, we pause to take stock of the progress made towards eliminating fistula, and re-commit ourselves to the work that’s needed if we are to #EndFistula by 2030. This year’s IDEOF will be especially poignant, because we must all pause to recognize that over the last 18-months global inequities have been hugely magnified, leaving the world’s most vulnerable exponentially worse off.
This IDEOF, we find ourselves reflecting on a year defined by both unprecedented challenges and extraordinary advancements in pursuit of our mission. When we launched our output-driven funding program in late 2020, we expected to receive applications from a few surgeons in a handful of countries. At the time, we had set what we thought was a pretty audacious programmatic target – to onboard 75 fistula surgeons from 15 countries by the end of 2021. From the moment we launched the program, it was clear that the level of unmet need was vast. We received applications at an extraordinary pace: within three months, we had over 120 applicants requesting our funding support. By the end of March 2021, we had approved and onboarded 58 surgeons across 18 countries, and they had performed and registered hundreds of fistula repairs!
The need for funding in the fistula sector has always been clear. NGOs, surgeons, and other care providers have always needed to be resourceful – using their limited time, money, and capacity to care for the greatest number of patients possible. This scrappiness and unyielding dedication is part of Operation Fistula’s DNA.
We work tirelessly to innovate and to harness the power of people, collaboration, and technology to catalyze impact, quality, and care. By diversifying our funding portfolio, we have been able to cover our overhead costs with grants, meaning that 100% of contributions to the Kickstart program from individual donors go directly to fistula surgeons. Making a little go a long way is a core tenet of our work, and we won’t stop until fistula is a thing of the past.
THE POWER OF OUTPUT-DRIVEN FUNDING
We’ve known about the extraordinary impact of output-driven funding since delivering our Pilot Program (2012-14). This program was designed to test the efficacy of this kind of funding, and saw us deliver performance-based funding to fistula surgeons in 4 countries. Over the course of the pilot, surgical throughput among this group of surgeons increased by an average of 39%!
At that time, we were collecting data from surgeons using spreadsheets and manual data entry, but in the years since, we’ve developed an incredibly powerful set of data collection and analytics tools. In our work to design and develop the Kickstart program we tapped into our experience during the pilot and worked to strengthen and improve every aspect of our programmatic implementation and delivery. The importance of direct funding has not changed in the intervening years, but it is clear that the demand had increased. Added pressure from other global crises, including climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, have caused a shift of funding away from fistula, increasing the number of surgeons who are outside the reach of mainstream funders and grants to support their work.
Our initial programmatic targets for the Kickstart Program were blown out of the water by the response we received from applicants. Nearly every surgeon who applied shared that a lack of funding was the number one barrier they faced in their ability to deliver care to patients. So much so, that the level of need for funding is already outpacing our ability to supply it.
So far, we have activated 58 fistula surgeons across 18 countries. These surgeons are delivering urgently needed care to patients at zero cost, and are entering their clinical data into our data collection system, so that we can verify the quality of care and patients’ outcomes. For our team, delivering care is secondary only to ensuring that the quality of that care is high.
TODAY, YOU CAN CHANGE A LIFE.
We have identified an additional 40 fistula surgeons across 7 countries that can’t deliver care because they have no access to the funding they need. These surgeons have applied to the program, and our team has verified their credentials. The only thing standing between these surgeons and their ability to perform fistula repairs is a lack of funds.
We need your help to further expand this extraordinary community of care! We need to mobilize more resources – from supporters like you – so that we can continue enabling these surgeons to deliver high-quality care to women with fistula.
The data visualization that we are sharing today shows surgeries that this community have completed, but which are awaiting funding. Today, you can change a life. For $200 you can directly fund one of these surgeries. Each number on the map represents an individual woman whose care you can fund. With every dollar you donate, you enable a woman to be treated. Your gift will directly close the gap between the doctor who delivers the care and the patient who desperately needs it.
The power of our direct funding is clear: in the first five months of this year, Operation Fistula has exceeded the total number of surgeries funded in 2020. Before the end of this year, we are aiming to fund over 2,000 fistula repairs. This IDEOF, join us in supporting surgeons on the frontline of the fight to #EndFistula. 100% of your gift will help deliver high-quality care at no cost to patients. Please give today.