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Obstetric fistula in Southern Sudan: situational analysis and Key Informant Method to estimate prevalence

Alma J Adler1*, Samantha Fox2, Oona M R Campbell1 and Hannah Kuper2

Author Affiliations

1 March Centre for Maternal, Reproductive and Child Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK

2 International Centre for Evidence in Disability, Clinical Research Department, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2013, 13:64  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-64

Published: 12 March 2013



Obstetric fistula is a severe condition which can have devastating consequences for a woman’s life. Despite a considerable literature, very little is known about its prevalence. This project was conducted to carry out a situational analysis of fistula services in South Sudan and to pilot test the Key Informant Method (KIM) to estimate the prevalence of fistula in a region of South Sudan.


Key stakeholder interviews, document reviews and fistula surgery record reviews were undertaken. A KIM survey was conducted in a district of Western Bahr-el-Ghazal in January 2012. One hundred sixty-six community-based distributors, traditional birth attendants and village midwives were trained as key informants to identify women with fistula in the community. Women identified were subsequently examined by an obstetrician and nurse to verify whether they had a fistula.


There were limited fistula repair services in South Sudan. Approximately 50–80 women per year attend periodic campaigns, with around half having a fistula and receiving a repair. On average a further 5 women a year received fistula repair from hospital services. Ten women with potential fistula were identified via KIM; all confirmed by the obstetrician. Of these, three were from the survey area, which had 8,865 women of reproductive age (15–49 years). This gives a minimal estimated prevalence of at least 30 fistulas per 100,000 women of reproductive age (95% CI 10–100).


Routine fistula repair services available do not meet the population’s needs. The pilot study suggests that KIM can be used to identify women with fistula in the community. Data on fistula are generally poor; the KIM methodology we used in South Sudan yielded a lower fistula prevalence than estimates reported previously in the region.