27 May 2013

Liberia: Fistula Affects 50,000 Women Yearly

Last week, Liberia joined the world to celebrate the first International Day to End Obstetric fistula with the Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) revealing that more than 50,000 new cases of fistula develop each year.

Fistula is a condition that makes women to urinate and defecate on themselves unknowingly as a result of difficulty experienced during child birth.

Dr. Babatunde Ostimehin, in his statement read by UNFPA-Liberia Resident Representative, Esperance Fundira, said though the condition is preventable, yet thousands of women in developing countries continue to suffer from fistula.

He disclosed that between 2 to 3 million women and girls in developing countries are living with obstetric fistula, a condition that has been virtually eliminated in industrialized nations.

"The victims of obstetric fistula are women and girls, usually poor, often illiterate, who have limited access to health services, including maternal and reproductive health care," he stated.

Dr. Ostimehin said in an age of rapid globalization in which mobile and e-technologies have changed the face of human communications and revolutionized the frontiers of science and medicine, it is unconscionable that the poorest, most vulnerable women and girls continue to suffer needlessly from this scourge.

These vulnerable women and girls, he said are at the heart of UNFPA's efforts to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe, and every young person's potential is fulfilled.

He pointed out that the persistence of fistula is a result of human rights denied and a reflection of human rights abuse.

"It reflects chronic health inequities and health-care system constraints, as well as wider challenges, such as gender and socio-economic inequality, child marriage and early child bearing, all of which can undermine the lives of women and girls and interfere with their enjoyment of their basic human rights," Dr. Ostimehin said.

As part of the global community, he noted that the world has an obligation to end this health and human rights tragedy. In his statement, Dr. Ostimehinsaid UNFPA leads and coordinates the Campaign to End Fistula, working with its partners for the past decade to make fistula as rare case in developing countries as it was in the industrialized world.

"Through its three key strategies of prevention, treatment and social reintegration, the collaborative efforts of the Campaign have helped women and girls around the world overcome a debilitating condition that has left--and continues to leave-- significant numbers suffering in solitude and shame,"he noted. He added "noting considerable recent progress in reducing maternal deaths and disabilities, a 2012 report of the United Nations Secretary-General, "Supporting Efforts to End Obstetric Fistula," called for dramatically intensified political and financial mobilization to accelerate progress towards ending obstetric fistula."

Dr. Ostimehin quoted the United Nations Secretary General as saying that "Many serious challenges remain and the world must do far more to reach the goal of "getting to zero; major gaps exist in access to treatment."

On this first-ever International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, he added "let us redouble our efforts to put an end to this grave global injustice. By raising awareness and support, including funding, we can make this a "game-changing" year for fistula. Working together, we can end the shame, end the isolation, and end fistula."

During the program, some fistula survivors explained how they encounter fistula which made them to be rejected, neglected and abandoned by family members, relatives and loved ones.

Former Miss Liberia, Patrice Juah, in commemoration of the first International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, wrote a poem in support of the survivors.

The UNFPA-Liberia Resident Representative also commended Dr. John Mulbah, Lead Fistula Surgeon for restoring hope and dignity to the survivors.

Since the Fistula Project was launched in 2007, over 1000 fistula victims have been treated successful while over 300 have acquired various skills and reintegrated into communities.

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