Two million women living with obstetric fistula globally – UNFPA

UNFPAThe United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has estimated that globally there are at least two million women living with the obstetric fistula condition.

It is also estimated that about 50,000 to 100,000 new cases of the condition develop every year among women.

Obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and the rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labor, leaving a woman unable to control her urine or feces or both.

Mr Bawa Amadu, the Assistant Representative of the UNFPA, made this known when he delivered a speech on behalf of Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, the Representative of the UNFPA during the commemoration of the third International Day to end Obstetric Fistula at Wechiau, in the Wa West District of the Upper West Region.

The Day was on the theme: “End Fistula, restore women’s dignity”.

Mr Amadu said each year; 300 million women worldwide suffer from complications of pregnancy and delivery, adding that, for every woman who died out of maternal related causes, at least 20 women experience morbidity of which obstetric fistula was one of the severe forms.

It is in line with these occurrences that UNFPA and its partners launched a global campaign in 2003 to end fistula; after which the UNFPA Ghana, in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the then Ministry of Women and Children Affairs followed up with a national launch in 2005.

The UN General Assembly designated May 23 every year as International Day to End Obstetric Fistula and the annual commemoration continued to raise awareness and intensify actions towards ending obstetric fistula.

Mr. Amadu said UNFPA supported more than 57, 000 fistula repair surgeries for women and girls globally, adding that, their campaign partners had enabled many more to receive treatment and rehabilitation as part of the UNFPA’s three point approach; prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

He said in collaboration with the GHS and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, at least 1,500 women had been repaired and that more were expected to be repaired this year.

The Assistant UNFPA Representative said since 2010, a total of 197 had received income generating skills, which had benefited them and their families economically and also facilitated their social integration.

Mr Amadu noted that, with the right combination of political will, leadership, financial commitment and scaling up of evidence based, cost effective, quality interventions, as well as ending forced marriage, ensuring girls education and practicing voluntary family planning, they could end what he described as “needless suffering of millions of women and girls”.

Madam Paula Baayel, a Chief Nursing Officer, who spoke on behalf of the Upper West Regional Director of Health Services, said the obstetric fistula condition was a relatively hidden problem, largely because it affected the most marginalised members of society, young, poor, illiterate women in remote areas.

He said women with fistula were often associated with flatulence, urine or fecal incontinence, making them smell offensively leading to rejection by their husbands and family members and in some occasions pushed out of their marital homes.

She said in 2012, with UNFPA support, a total of 113 fistula cases were assessed and 92 underwent repairs out of which 81 were successful, giving a success rate of 88 per cent in the Tamale Fistula Center alone.

Madam Baayel announced that the Regional Hospital recorded a total of 45 fistula cases from 2011 to the first quarter of 2015, with the highest of 15 cases in 2011.

Dr. Edward M. Kolbila, the Medical Director of the Wa West District Hospital said from 2006 to date, a total of 28 fistula cases had been identified in the district with 25 of them already treated while the remaining three that were just identified in 2015 were being prepared for treatment.

Amamata Abdulai, an obstetric fistula survivor, narrating her ordeal, said she got the condition when she was 18-years-old during child birth, but said she was thankful that through UNFPA and GHS support she had been treated and was going about her normal duties without any rejection from the general public.

Source: GNA

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