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Médecins Sans Frontières treats 1000th fistula in Burundi

Burundi / 18.02.13

Women socialise at Urumuri Centre, Gitega - the only centre providing free, comprehensive treatment to women suffering fistulas in Burundi. © Martina Bacigalupo

Launched in July 2010, the Urumuri Centre in Gitega is a joint effort of the Ministry and Health and Médecins Sans Frontières. One thousand operations have already been performed there, enabling women to return to normal life and emerge from exclusion. Obstetric fistula often leads to urinary and/or faecal incontinence, which leads to social isolation.

Although approximately 1,200 women develop obstetric fistula in Burundi every year, Médecins Sans Frontières’ Urumuri Centre is still the only facility in the country that provides comprehensive, free treatment to women with simple or complex fistulas. The surgeons who perform the procedure are expatriates who volunteer with the non-profit organisation.

“While we are delighted to have been able to treat so many women and allow them to recover their dignity, we are also concerned about the future,” says Bavo Christiaens, Médecins Sans Frontières’ head of mission in Burundi. “Despite our repeated requests to health authorities, we have not been able to train a single physician to operate on fistulas. We are thus launching a new appeal to our partners to take advantage of the unique opportunity that the Urumuri Centre offers to train Burundi doctors in this procedure.”

Médecins Sans Frontières fears that the Urumuri Centre will close when the programme is turned over to the country’s authorities.  “Médecins Sans Frontières provides temporary support and our goal is to turn our activities over to local health authorities. Sharing our expertise and providing training is an integral part of our commitment here in Burundi,” Christiaens notes.

Médecins Sans Frontières has been working in Burundi since 1993 and currently manages three projects, two of which focus exclusively on maternal health.  


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