Campaign to End Fistula

WC Desk:

Preventing Fistula Saves Mothers’ Lives

Some 800 women die every day in Africa or Asia in childbirth.

For each woman who dies, a family is shattered. Surviving children are deprived of a mother’s care and put at risk. Communities suffer. These deaths represent the ultimate failure of maternal health care.

The toll is more than 300,000 women lost each year from treatable causes: severe bleeding, infections, hypertensive disorders, obstructed labour or complications from unsafe abortion.

The two million or more women who await fistula repair were very nearly part of this grim statistic. They survived the physical and emotional trauma of obstructed labour to become living reminders of health system failures. All too often, however, these women have been hidden away and forgotten.

By working to prevent fistula, the global Campaign to End Fistula aims to reduce the ongoing tragedy of maternal death and injury. The experiences of women who narrowly survived traumatic deliveries help us understand what is wrong with health services and impart urgency to the challenge of preventing this tragedy from recurring.

n 2003, UNFPA and its partners launched a global Campaign to End Fistula in line with international targets to improve maternal health and with the goal of reducing the number of obstetric fistula patients, especially in developing countries.

In recent years, the Campaign has drawn the attention of policymakers, health officials, affected communities and individuals, as well as the general public to the issue of fistula.

The Campaign has made remarkable progress but the needs are great. Ending fistula worldwide will demand political interventions, additional resources, and strengthened collaboration between governments, partners and the civil society.

The Campaign, in conjunction with its partners, is now working in more than 50 countries across Africa, Asia and the Arab region. In each country, it focuses on three key areas:

 The most effective way to prevent fistula is to increase access to quality maternal health care services including family planning, skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetric care. Prevention also entails tackling underlying social and economic inequities to empower women and girls, enhance their life opportunities, and delay marriage as well as pregnancy.

 While prevention is our focus, there is a strong commitment to treating patients. The average cost of fistula treatment—including surgery, post-operative care and rehabilitation support—is $400. The Campaign supports all areas of treatment, from training doctors in fistula surgery to equipping and upgrading fistula centres.

 Fistula treatment goes beyond repairing the hole in a woman’s tissue. Many patients—especially those who have lived with the condition for years—will need emotional, economic and social support to fully recover from their ordeal. Through the Campaign, women receive counselling and skills training to empower them after surgery. Working with communities is also key because it ensures women are accepted back into society without being stigmatized.

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