UN Population Fund launches push to fight pregnancy-related disability in Africa
Obstetric fistula, which the agency calls “the most devastating” disability linked to maternity, affects up to 100,000 African women each year. The UNFPA-sponsored campaign will focus on both the prevention and treatment of the condition by raising awareness, equipping health centres with essential supplies and training medical personnel to perform surgeries and provide post-operative care.
An obstetric fistula is an injury to the pelvic organs that most often occurs when a very young, poor girl experiences a long and obstructed labour, according to UNFPA. With no access to medical care, the girl suffers extensive tissue damage to her birth canal and the baby usually dies. The damage creates a hole between the vagina and the bladder or rectum, leaving victims to suffer from a constant leakage of urine or feces.
“UNFPA hopes that this campaign will help to eventually make fistulas as rare in Africa as they are in other parts of the world,” said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid. Stressing the right of all women to have healthy pregnancies and to give birth safely, she voiced confidence that the campaign would “help to make that a reality.”
Obstetric fistulas are both preventable and treatable. Reconstructive surgery, which can be performed even if the woman has been suffering from the condition for several years, has a success rate between 88 and 93 per cent.
During the two-year campaign, UNFPA will provide financial and technical support to existing fistula treatment centres in Benin, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.