Press Release

Campaign to End Fistula Quadruples in Size, Reaching Over 45 Countries, Says New Report

13 October 2008
Author: UNFPA

UNITED NATIONS, New York—As the first-ever report by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on fistula is scheduled to be presented to Member States today, the Campaign to End Fistula announced a fourfold increase in the number of countries it serves. According to its annual report, the campaign now works to prevent and treat fistula in over 45 countries in Africa, Asia and the Arab States. When the Campaign to End Fistula was launched in 2003, it covered 12 countries.

The Secretary-General’s report on supporting efforts to end obstetric fistula, issued in response to a request by the General Assembly, outlines efforts to end obstetric fistula and help achieve Millennium Development Goal 5 (Improve Maternal Health), including strengthening health systems and increasing funding.

At least 2 million women in Africa, Asia and the Arab region are living with obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged labour without prompt medical intervention. Every year some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop, with severe social and medical consequences for the women affected.

“The consequences of fistula are life shattering,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. “The baby often dies and the woman is left with chronic incontinence, greatly diminishing her prospects for work and family life.”

While obstetric fistula is uncommon in countries where births are attended by skilled medical workers and emergency obstetric care is available, and where women can exercise their right to determine the number and spacing of their children, it occurs disproportionately among poor girls and women, especially those living far from medical services and with lack of access to family planning.

Launched by UNFPA and partners, the global Campaign to End Fistula aims at eliminating fistula by 2015 by preventing it and restoring the health and dignity of women living with its consequences. The campaign’s annual report, released today, shows that it is active in 45 countries and has supported treatment for over 7,800 women. In 2007 alone, the Campaign provided training for more than 500 professionals in fistula treatment and care and strengthened the capacity to provide fistula treatment in 89 health centres. Since 2003, the campaign has raised more than $25 million in contributions and educated tens of thousands of individuals, community leaders and policymakers about fistula.

“Because of poverty, women suffering from fistula lack the means to cover the full cost of their surgery," said Dr. Dolores Nembunzu, a fistula surgeon in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Through advocacy we can reach the women who are hidden, and give them support and access to information about treatment."

While affecting the most vulnerable members of society, fistula touches on reproductive health and rights, gender equality, poverty and adolescent reproductive health. Like maternal death, fistula is almost entirely preventable, but its persistence signals that health systems are currently failing to meet women's needs.

Contact information:
Christina Vrachnos
Tel.: 212-294-5279
Email: vrachnos@unfpa.org

Congo, Democratic Republic of the
Population : 86.7 mil
Fertility rate
5.8
Maternal Mortality Ratio
693
Contraceptives prevalence rate
25
Population aged 10-24
32%

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