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2 million women, girls suffer obstetric fistula

As the world commemorate this year’s International Day to End Obstetric Fistula with the theme: ‘End fistula within a generation’, the United Nations has called for the need to accelerate efforts towards ending the condition.

Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr Babatunde Osotimehin said ending fistula remains one of our highest priorities for the UN.

Globally, two million poor and marginalized women and girls suffer from Obstetric Fistula, a preventable and treatable condition as a result of hole or tear between the birth canal and the rectum or bladder that results in chronic incontinence and dangerous infections. It afflicts those who do not have access to good quality maternal health care.

Also, added to the pain and suffering is the stigma and discrimination that surrounds Obstetric Fistula in many communities around the world because it is almost entirely a condition of the poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalized women and girls.  Sufferers of this condition often live with it for years because they cannot afford to get treatment.

Osotimehin said, “the global Campaign to End Fistula, launched in 2003 by UNFPA and partners, has made significant progress towards eliminating fistula and supporting its survivors through prevention, treatment, social reintegration and advocacy. UNFPA has supported more than 70,000 fistula repair surgeries for women and girls in need, and Campaign partners have enabled many more to receive treatment.

“As we talk about ending polio, HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation and so many other forms of suffering, so must we commit to stepping up our efforts to end fistula, once and for all. This means heeding the call of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind, especially those most neglected, invisible and powerless, including the women and girls living with fistula. Now is the time, and I am confident we can do it”.

In his remarks, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon said, “the persistence of fistula in some countries and regions is an indicator of very poor access to quality maternal health services. To end it, we must strengthen health systems and address broader development and human rights issues affecting women and girls: poverty, gender inequality, early marriage, early childbearing, and lack of education. Fistula has virtually been eliminated in most high- and middle-income countries around the world, so we know that it can be eliminated in every country”.

International Day to end Obstetric Fistula is celebrated on May 23rd every year.

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