Press Release

Advocates Rally UK Support to End Fistula

27 June 2006

LONDON — Singer/actress Natalie Imbruglia, Baroness Amos, public health experts, and advertising executives gathered today to build awareness of obstetric fistula, a devastating injury of childbearing that leaves women with agonising pain, chronic incontinence and – in most cases – a stillborn baby. The gathering launched an advertising campaign to raise visibility of this issue among the British public.

“Obstetric fistula was eliminated here in the United Kingdom more than 100 years ago,” said Ms. Imbruglia, a spokesperson for the Campaign to End Fistula, a global effort led by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. “It’s unacceptable that women and girls in developing countries are still suffering from this entirely preventable and treatable condition.”

Obstetric fistula is typically caused by obstructed labour without prompt medical intervention – usually, a Caesarean section. A simple surgery is often all that is needed to mend the injury, with success rates as high as 90 per cent. Yet at least 2 million women in developing countries remain untreated, and some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop each year.

“Women with obstetric fistula are dead women – physically and psychologically,” said Dr. Gloria Esegbona, a British doctor of Nigerian descent who has treated women with the condition in Africa. “Their injuries render them little more than cripples and scar their souls.”

The global Campaign to End Fistula currently covers more than 35 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Arab region. It focuses on three key areas of intervention: preventing fistula, treating affected women, and supporting women after surgery. The goal is to make fistula as rare in developing countries as it is in the industrialized world.

Prevention is the key to ending fistula. Improving access to quality maternal health care could help prevent obstetric fistula and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of women who die each year from complications of pregnancy or childbirth.

“In the developing world, pregnancy and childbirth kill a woman every minute, yet this goes unnoticed,” said Baroness Amos, Leader of The House of Lords and the Lords’ spokesperson for international development. “It is an outrage.”

The global Campaign to End Fistula, launched in 2003, has grown to include a wide range of partners, including the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Population Council. Private sector partners include Virgin Unite and award-winning advertising agency RKCR/Y&R – the London affiliate of the Young & Rubicam network.

Materials for the new advertising campaign – developed pro bono for UNFPA by RCKR/Y&R – will be seen across London throughout the month of July.


UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

Contact Information:

Saira Stewart
Tel.: 1-212-297-5279

Cathy Bartley
Tel.: +44 (0)7958 561 671

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