Today May 23, marks the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula under the theme “Tracking Fistula – Transforming Lives. It is estimated that this condition usually caused by prolonged obstructed labour causing a hole in the birth canal, affects two million women and girls in developing countries.
Speaking ahead of the commemorations, Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNPA), Dr Babatunde Osotimehin called on countries to take steps to prevent fistulas by addressing underlying medical and socio-economic causes, eliminating gender-based social and economic inequities, preventing child marriage and early childbearing and promoting education, especially for girls.
He said while tracking and treating all fistula cases was crucial, eliminating the health crisis of obstetric fistula, requires scaling up countries’ capacities to provide access to equitable, high-quality sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning and maternity care, especially comprehensive emergency obstetric care.
"Obstetric fistula highlights persistent global inequalities in access to health care and basic human rights. Most women who develop fistula remain untreated for their entire lives, and the condition can easily recur in women and girls whose fistula has been surgically treated but who receive little or no medical follow-up and then become pregnant again.”
To address the neglected health and human rights violation of obstetric fistula, ten years ago, UNFPA and its partners, launched the global campaign to end fistula. Since then 47, 000 women and girls have undergone fistula repair surgery. Partner organisations have provided treatment to many more women and girls living with the condition.
However, much remains to be done, and more support and momentum are needed to enable the Campaign to expand its reach to all corners of the world where women suffering from fistula remain isolated and often unaware that treatment is available or even possible.
“To treat fistula and provide women with follow-up medical care, we need to know more about how many women and girls are in need of services and also where they live. In most instances, stigma forces women living with the condition to remain hidden and isolates them from families and communities. By systematically registering and tracking each woman and girl who has or had an obstetric fistula, we can make enormous strides in improving their well-being and increasing the chances of their babies’ survival in subsequent pregnancies,” explain Dr Osotumehin. PYM