Obstetric fistula is one of the most serious and tragic injuries that can occur during childbirth. The condition typically leaves women incontinent, as well as subject to infections or other health conditions. Women with fistula are often shunned by their communities.
The United Nations has observed the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula since 2013. The day, 23 May, is meant to raise awareness of this issue and mobilize support around the globe.
Ahead of the Day, UNFPA coauthored a commentary in The Lancet Global Health which underscores the critical role of universal access to skilled care at birth – including emergency obstetric, neonatal and newborn care and safe surgery – for ending preventable maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity (including obstetric fistula and stillbirths). Drawing upon recommendations from the Lancet Commission on High Quality Health Systems in the SDG Era and the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, it emphasizes that ensuring all women and girls in need receive timely, high quality, life-saving obstetric surgery (whether Cesarean section or fistula repair) is a fundamental human rights issue and a key strategy for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.