UNFPA Launches National Campaign to End Fistula in Pakistan

1 February 2006
Author: UNFPA

UNITED NATIONS, New York — The first ever national campaign to end fistula in Pakistan was launched by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in Karachi last week. The campaign aims to surgically repair and rehabilitate hundreds of women suffering from fistula — the most devastating of all pregnancy-related disabilities.

“The social consequences of fistula are disastrous for women,” said Dr. Nafis Sadik, Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on HIV/AIDS in Asia and keynote speaker at the launch event. “But a simple surgical repair, which calls for no special technology or extensive expenditure, can restore health, hope and a sense of dignity to women living with this devastating condition.”

Fistula is a childbirth injury that occurs when a woman endures prolonged obstructed labour, sometimes for days at a time, without the benefit of skilled medical care. Often, the baby will die and the woman will suffer chronic incontinence (leaking of urine). Women affected by fistula may be abandoned by their husbands, ostracized by their communities and blamed for their condition. Obstetric fistula is a preventable and treatable condition, yet more than 2 million women remain untreated in developing countries, and an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 cases occur each year in Pakistan.

The new campaign will establish four regional fistula treatment centres in Karachi, Islamabad, Multan and Peshawar. These centres will receive much-needed equipment and supplies for fistula surgery, and local doctors will be trained in surgery and post-operative care. Advocacy will also take place to raise awareness of the problem, and efforts will be made to include fistula training in the curricula of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan.

More than 70 per cent of Pakistani women deliver their babies at home, down from 80 per cent in 1998, and around 30 per cent of births take place with a skilled birth attendant, up from 18 per cent in 1998. The country has made a concerted effort to decrease maternal deaths by allocating more resources to maternal health, including the induction of a new cadre of community midwives and strengthening of emergency obstetric care services in rural and poor urban areas.

The launch of the campaign was attended by more than 200 participants, including healthcare providers from the public and private sectors, as well as political and religious leaders, social activists and journalists.

UNFPA is leading a global Campaign to End Fistula in over 30 countries of South Asia, Africa and the Arab region. The long-term goal is to make fistula as rare in developing countries as it is in the industrialized world today.

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UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is the world’s largest multilateral source of population assistance. Making motherhood safer for all women is at the heart of UNFPA’s mandate.

Contact Information:

Islamabad: Dr. France Donnay, +92-300-501-9875, or
Dr. Masuma Zaidi, +051-280-0145,

New York: Saira Stewart, + 1 212-297-5279,

Population : 220.9 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 40%
Girls 34%