120,000 women and children helped in last 10 years
Freedom From Fistula (FFF), a charity set up by Stagecoach co-founder Ann Gloag, is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year having treated more than 120,000 women and children since its launch in May 2008.
Ann Gloag set up Freedom From Fistula 10 years ago to help women and girls injured in childbirth and to provide access to maternal healthcare in Africa.
Since then, the charity has expanded to manage projects in four African countries – Sierra Leone, Malawi, Kenya and Madagascar - and has trained more than 500 doctors and nurses to help build capacity within the healthcare systems of those countries. It has safely delivered 10,000 babies and performed 6,500 fistula surgeries.
Obstetric fistula is an injury that leaves women permanently incontinent after childbirth and an estimated two million women and girls across the world are suffering with the condition today.
The vast majority of cases are caused when a women suffers prolonged, obstructed labour and does not have access to timely medical intervention and a c-section.
Often outcast from families and communities as a result of their leaking and constant smell, Freedom From Fistula seeks to heal them emotionally, as well as physically, and lead them back into a life of economic empowerment.
Speaking about the charity, Ann Gloag said, “I set up Freedom From Fistula because it is a scandal that in the 21st century women and girls across large parts of the world do not have access to quality maternal healthcare. If this was a man’s problem, it would have been solved by now!
“Women and girls suffering with fistula are the lowest of the low in their societies, often living isolated lives, full of shame and despair, through no fault of their own.
“But the good news is fistula is both preventable and curable. It no longer happens in developed countries because women in prolonged, obstructed labour are lucky to have access to c-sections and skilled medical personnel. We need to make that privilege available for all women and girls throughout the world.
“Over the last 10 years, we have helped more than 120,000 women and children and I am very proud of our 230 staff across our projects that have contributed so much to our success.
“I am also thankful to the countless international staff and volunteers from Scotland and across the UK and Europe, who have dedicated their time to help us plug skills gaps and train national staff throughout our projects.
“We have also had many partners over the last 10 years who have helped us make Freedom From Fistula a success – from knitting groups making jackets and hats for babies in our maternity unit, to international organisations whose donations have helped us expand to help more women and girls every year. Their support has been invaluable.
“I am committed to continuing this work and, through my Gloag Foundation, cover all administration costs of the charity in the UK to ensure 100% of donations to Freedom From Fistula go directly to the projects in Africa.
“We have achieved a lot in 10 years but we have a long way to go so I am asking the people of Scotland if they will support me to ensure we can help even more women and children receive the care they deserve.”
Margaret Moyo, Country Director of Freedom From Fistula Malawi, said: “We are indebted to Ann Gloag for her compassion and commitment to improving the lives of women and girls suffering from fistula. Without her dedication, fistula patients would have remained in the shadows.
“Instead, we are now the Centre of Excellence for fistula care in Malawi, treating more than 400 women and girls every year, and I know the projects in Sierra Leone, Madagascar and Kenya are equally successful.
“Freedom From Fistula has made a tangible and positive difference to Malawi and Ann deserves huge credit for improving the lives of thousands of women and girls.”
Freedom From Fistula manages projects in four countries in Africa providing free care:
- In Sierra Leone, the charity runs the Aberdeen Women’s Centre in Freetown which comprises a fistula unit, maternity unit, family planning and outpatient children’s clinic – treating over 20,000 women and children per year
- In Malawi, the charity helps more than 1,500 women and girls each year. It runs the Fistula Care Centre in Lilongwe providing fistula surgeries, as well as an extensive Patient Rehabilitation, Education and Empowerment Programme. FFF also funds maternal healthcare at two partner clinics and, in partnership with Rotary International and Rotary Clubs in Scotland, funds the training of 60 Nurse Midwife Technicians, to help build capacity in the maternal healthcare system.
- In Madagascar, the charity runs the Fistula Care Centre in Toamasina providing free surgeries and a rehabilitation and education programme for more than 250 fistula patients.
- In Kenya, the charity works in partnership to fund and manage the provision of fistula surgeries at district hospitals throughout the country, helping around 350 women and girls each year.
Further information about Freedom From Fistula and its projects, including case studies and photos, can be found at www.freedomfromfistula.org
Ann Gloag has almost 30 years’ experience in Africa, having had business interests and other charitable projects on the continent since 1990, including Kenya Children’s Homes that helps 1700 children per year in Kenya and the establishment of the Burns Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi.
Her Gloag Foundation covers all the administration costs of Freedom From Fistula and Kenya Children’s Homes in the UK to enable 100% of donations to go directly to help the projects in Africa.