Astellas has unveiled a programme designed to transform the lives of more than 1,200 women in Kenya living with obstetric fistula.

As part of a three-year initiative, the company is putting up 1.5 million euros to help fund training for fistula surgeons and create networks to improve access to treatment. An obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labour when emergency care is unavailable, causing either faecal or urinary incontinence or both.

Despite being virtually eradicated in developed countries, the United Nations Population Fund estimates that 3,000 new cases of obstetric fistula occur annually in Kenya, about one to two for every 1,000 deliveries. Astellas noted that "sufferers are too often subject to severe social stigma due to odour which is constant and humiliating, often driving the patients' family, friends and neighbours away" and untreated, fistula can lead to chronic medical problems including ulcerations, kidney disease and nerve damage in the legs.

The company will be working with the Fistula Foundation and the latter's chief executive, Kate Grant, noted that "there is an enormous need for fistula treatment in Kenya and we can’t face this challenge alone". She said the programme "will help provide the vital treatment these women need and deserve to live happy, fulfilled lives", adding that "this generous support will also help us train more surgeons".