Fistula Foundation

Fistula Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization focused on treatment of obstetric fistula, funding more repair surgeries than any other organization, public or private.[1][2] As of February 2021, they support hospitals and doctors in over 20 countries across Africa and Asia.[3] The Foundation is dedicated to treating obstetric fistula by covering the full cost of fistula repair surgery for poor women who would otherwise not be able to access treatment. They also provide fistula surgeon training, equipment and facility upgrades that make fistula treatment as safe as possible, post-surgery counseling and support for healed patients. The Foundation has been recognized by several organizations for its transparency, effectiveness and efficiency, earning a top "A" rating from Charity Watch and a four star rating from Charity Navigator for 15 years in a row,[4] placing it in the top 1% of charities reviewed on the site. The Foundation has also been selected as one of 22 charities recommended[5] by Princeton Professor Peter Singer's organization, The Life You Can Save.[6] The organization's cost-effectiveness was also noted by GiveWell in 2019.[7]


Fistula Foundation was founded in 2000 by Richard Haas and his daughter Shaleece Haas, who both left the organization in 2005. It is headquartered in San Jose, California, and has offices in Kenya and Zambia. Since its inception, the organization has raised more than $108.5 million from donors from more than 81 countries.[8] Until 2008, the Foundation supported only the work of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia, founded by the late Dr. Catherine Hamlin and her husband Reginald Hamlin.[9] In 2009, the Foundation expanded its mission from funding only that hospital to addressing fistula treatment globally.[10] Since then, they have supported projects in a total of 32 countries across Africa and Asia.[11] Since expanding their mission in 2009, they have provided more than 55,000 surgeries.[12]


The need for fistula treatment far outstrips supply. For every woman who is treated, there are an estimated 50 more women who go without, according to the Foundation[13] and affirmed by a peer reviewed published meta-analysis.[14] Because of this, Fistula Foundation focuses primarily on treatment, either directly through fistula repair surgeries, or by removing barriers to treatment through training of surgeons and the provision and equipping of medical facilities.

Since expanding to a global mission in 2009,[10] the organization has grown to help address the large unmet need. They now provide more support than any other organization including USAID[2] and the United Nations.[1] Countries where the Foundation has supported projects include Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Somaliland, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.[15]

The Foundation also funds surgeon training, growing the pool of skilled fistula surgeons with the ability to perform what can be a very complex surgery. The organization supported the FIGO (International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics) Fistula Training Initiative,[16] which works to build the capacity of fistula surgeons in accredited training centers using the FIGO Global Competency-Based Fistula Surgery Training Manual.


Fistula Foundation is led by CEO Kate Grant, who joined the organization in 2005 as its first chief executive. Under her leadership, the Foundation has grown from supporting one facility in one country to become the global leader in fistula treatment. The Foundation is raising more than 6 times the revenue and funding more than 15 times as many surgeries as when she took over. In 2014, Grant was the recipient of the American Marketing Association Foundation "Nonprofit Marketer of the Year Award".[17] The Foundation has a six-member Board of Directors; the chair is Kelly Brennan, who joined the board in 2016.


The Foundation meets all Better Business Bureau Standards of Charity Accountability, and is a Top-Rated Charity on GreatNonprofits.[18] In 2015, it was selected by the investment firm The Motley Fool as their holiday 'Foolanthropy' partner,[19] raising over $75,000.[20] ConsumerReports published a list of recommended charities for the 2018 holiday season, naming the Fistula Foundation as one of only five international organizations.[21]

In 2019, the charity evaluator GiveWell said of the Foundation: "From an initial cost-effectiveness analysis, our best estimate is that Fistula Foundation may be in the range of cost-effectiveness of our current top charities."[7] GiveWell's evaluation of the organization is ongoing.


The Foundation is a partner of the United Nations Population Fund’s Campaign to End Fistula.[22] Other partners have included Direct Relief, the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) and the International Society of Obstetric Fistula Surgeons (ISOFS). The Foundation was a primary funder of the Global Fistula Treatment Map.[23]

When the organization expanded to fight fistula globally in 2009, its first surgeon partner was Dr. Denis Mukwege of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo.[24] This partnership has continued ever since, and in 2018, Mukwege was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.[25] Another notable partner is Edna Adan Ismail,[26] founder of the Edna Adan Hospital and University,[27] former First Lady and Foreign Minister of Somaliland, and the country's first qualified nurse midwife.

Fistula Foundation has received funding and support from Johnson & Johnson. The company has partnered with the Foundation for the last decade, providing more than $2 million in support.[28]

In 2014, the Foundation launched its first countrywide treatment network in Kenya with seed funding from Astellas Pharma EMEA.[29] The initiative is designed to treat women, train more fistula surgeons, and build a lasting network of treatment providers. The Foundation launched a second countrywide treatment network in Zambia in 2017, with the support of Johnson & Johnson. Cumulatively, the networks in Kenya and Zambia have treated more than 7,300 women, added 12 facilities to a nationwide fistula treatment network, certified 14 new fistula surgeons at FIGO global competency level, and held over 28,101 community outreach events designed to educate communities about obstetric fistula, how to identify it and where to receive treatment.[30]


Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas D. Kristof has consistently covered the Foundation's work in his New York Times column, most recently in October 2019.[31] He first mentioned the organization in June 2005,[32] and again in June 2006,[33] February 2007,[34] October 2009,[35] December 2009,[36] May 2010,[37] May 2011,[38] May 2012,[39] June 2013,[40] February 2014,[41] March 2015,[42] March 2016,[43] and February 2018.[44]

The Foundation also continues to generate attention through Grant's articles in international publications including The Guardian,[45] The Lancet,[46] The San Jose Mercury News,[47] Medium, and The Huffington Post.[48] The Foundation was also featured in Kenyan television (CitizenTV,[49] NTV[50]) for celebrating the grand opening of the Gynocare Women's & Fistula Center, a hospital funded by Fistula Foundation's donors. Dr. Hillary Mabeya, co-founder of Gynocare, published an op-ed about his work as a fistula surgeon in U.S. News & World Report in May 2018.[51] PBS NewsHour aired a segment on Fistula Foundation's countrywide treatment network in Kenya in December 2017.[52] The organization has also garnered coverage in The Independent,[53] Rolling Stone,[54] USA Today,[55] Reuters,[56] NewsWeek,[57] NewsDeeply,[58] Money Magazine,[59] and MSN News[60].

The Foundation was featured prominently as a top effective charity in the 10th anniversary edition of ethicist professor Peter Singer's book, The Life You Can Save. Singer's partnership with the Foundation is longstanding.[61] In 2015, Singer put on a concert with Grammy Award-winning musician Paul Simon, which raised over $150,000 for fistula care.

The Foundation was a primary sponsor of the documentary film A Walk to Beautiful which won the Best Feature-Length Documentary of 2007 from the International Documentary Association[62] as well as an Emmy for best long form documentary in 2008. The film tells the story of five Ethiopian women treated by Dr. Hamlin and her staff at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. PBS's NOVA is the other major sponsor of the documentary.[63] In 2016, Comedian Louis C.K. won $50,000 for the Fistula Foundation on the Jeopardy! "Power Players" edition.[64] Fistula Foundation was also featured in Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.[65] This campaign included a Facebook-based game, Half the Game.[66] Thanks to $250,000 in support from Johnson & Johnson, players of this game can help fund fistula treatment in the real world, through online actions in the game.

Allan Rosenfield Award

The Foundation's Allan Rosenfield Award recognized outstanding contributions of those who have left a deep and accomplished legacy for the Foundation and its mission. The award was inaugurated in 2012, and is named for Dr. Allan Rosenfield, who served on the organization's board of directors for five years. As dean of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, Rosenfield was known globally for his pioneering leadership and myriad of contributions to the field of women's health.[67]

In 2016, Conrad Person of Johnson & Johnson was awarded for his key role in forging an enduring partnership between the Foundation and its biggest corporate sponsor.[68] In 2017, the late Jerry Goldstein was honored as Fistula Foundation's longest-standing volunteer, dedicating a portion of his time every week since 2005.[69] Several past Board Members have been presented with the award, including Larry William, Rob Tessler, Jerry Shefren, Kassahun Kebede, Linda Tripp, Teri Whitcraft, Bill Mann and Denis Robson.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "Intensifying efforts to end obstetric fistula within a generation: Report of the Secretary-General" (PDF). United Nations. 31 July 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Fistula Care Plus: Annual Report October 1 2017 to September 30, 2018" (PDF). Engender Health/Fistula Ca. November 30, 2018.
  3. ^ "Countries Where We Help". Fistula Foundation. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  4. ^ "Charity Navigator Rating - Fistula Foundation". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 2015-09-25.
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  12. ^ "What We Do". Fistula Foundation. Retrieved 2021-04-23.
  13. ^ "Fast Facts & FAQ". Fistula Foundation. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  14. ^ Adler, A. J.; Ronsmans, C.; Calvert, C.; Filippi, V. (2013-12-30). "Estimating the prevalence of obstetric fistula: a systematic review and meta-analysis". BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 13 (1): 246. doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-246. ISSN 1471-2393. PMC 3937166. PMID 24373152.
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  25. ^ Callimachi, Rukmini; Gettleman, Jeffrey; Kulish, Nicholas; Mueller, Benjamin (2018-10-05). "2018 Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to Yazidi Activist and Congolese Doctor". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
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  32. ^ Kristof, Nicholas D. (2005-06-12). "Opinion | The Illiterate Surgeon". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  33. ^ Kristof, Nicholas D. (2006-06-13). "A Shining Example". On the Ground. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  34. ^ Kristof, Nicholas (2007-02-25). "Opinion | 'They Think They've Been Cursed by God'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  35. ^ Kristof, Nicholas (2009-10-31). "A Heroic Doctor, a Global Scourge". On the Ground. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
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  38. ^ Kristof, Nicholas (2011-05-04). "Opinion | Beyond Flowers for Mom". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  39. ^ Kristof, Nicholas (2012-05-12). "Opinion | Saving the Lives of Moms". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  40. ^ Kristof, Nicholas (2013-07-13). "Opinion | Where Young Women Find Healing and Hope". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  41. ^ Kristof, Nicholas (2014-02-05). "Opinion | At 90, This Doctor Is Still Calling". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  42. ^ Kristof, Nicholas (2015-03-28). "Opinion | A Little Respect for Dr. Foster". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
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  47. ^ "Opinion: Nobel Peace Prize winner is inspiration to all". The Mercury News. 2018-12-08. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  48. ^ "Kate Grant - HuffPost".
  49. ^ Kenya CitizenTV (6 October 2016). "Gynocare Fistula Centre in Eldoret set to offer free corrective surgery" – via YouTube.
  50. ^ NTV Kenya (7 October 2016). "Fistula surgery hospital opens in Eldoret" – via YouTube.
  51. ^ Mabeya, Hillary (May 22, 2018). "Changing the Way Obstetric Fistula is Treated in Kenya". US News and World Report. Archived from the original on 2018-05-22.
  52. ^ "Erasing the pain and taboo of this female injury". PBS NewsHour. 2017-12-27. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  53. ^ "Kenya's fight against fistula". The Independent. 2018-02-07. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  54. ^ Blistein, Jon (2016-05-19). "Watch Louis C.K. Win $50,000 For Charity on 'Jeopardy'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  55. ^ Kelly, Cara. "Louis C.K. just won $50,000 for the Fistula Foundation on 'Jeopardy!'. But what is it?". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  56. ^ "Africa fights fistula with mobile money and community ambassadors". Reuters. 2017-07-17. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
  57. ^ Verger, Rob (2014-10-11). "The Afterbirth Miracle". Newsweek. Retrieved 2019-11-06.
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  62. ^ "Programs". International Documentary Association. Retrieved 2019-04-02.
  63. ^ "NOVA | A Walk to Beautiful | PBS". Retrieved 2019-04-02.
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  66. ^ "Half The Sky Movement: The Game".
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  69. ^ "2017 Allan Rosenfield Award: Jerry Goldstein". Fistula Foundation. Retrieved 2019-11-06.

External links