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UNFPA marks the first-ever International Day to End Fistula

"A holistic and human rights-based approach is needed to tackle the root causes of obstetric fistula. Obstetric fistula will only be eliminated if women are able to make informed decisions about their reproductive lives" Said Dr. Zessler, UNFPA Representative.

Kabul, May 23, 2013- Obstetric fistula is a devastating childbirth injury which leads to both physical and social harm for the women suffering of the injury. Sadly, obstetric fistula is a uniquely eradicable maternal morbidity that has until recently not received sufficient attention in Afghanistan. Obstetric fistula arises most often as a complication of prolonged and/or obstructed labor and results in an opening (fistula) between the bladder and the vagina (vesico-vaginal fistula) or between the rectum and the vagina (recto-vaginal fistula). While obstetric fistula is preventable and treatable, once present, it has severe health and social consequences.

Over the last 10 years, UNFPA has directly supported more than 34,000 women and girls to receive surgical treatment for fistula-roughly one third of global repairs-including 7,000 women and girls in 2012 alone. Partner agencies have supported thousands more as part of the Campaign to End Fistula, which was launched in 2003 by UNFPA and a wide range of partners. The Campaign is based on the three key strategies of prevention, treatment and social reintegration of survivors. Uniting more than 80 international partner agencies and hundreds more at national and community levels, the Campaign has tripled in size since its inception and is currently active in more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, the Arab states and Latin America.

On 23 May 2013, UNFPA will be marking the first-ever International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, as designated by the UN General Assembly last December. The year 2013 also marks the 10th anniversary of the Campaign to End Fistula launched by UNFPA and its partners.

In 2010 UNFPA supported a survey of 3043 women of reproductive age (15-49 yrs) in six provinces which showed that the prevalence of obstetric fistula was 4 cases per 1000 women in the reproductive age group (0.4%).

Dr Soraya Dalil, Minister of Public Health said "Fistula is not only health problem it has socio-economic and cultural dimensions. It affects poor and uneducated women. There is need to raise awareness on women's reproductive health and rights. Every pregnant woman should have access to skilled birth attendants during pregnancy and childbirth. The fistula prevention comes in the form of access to obstetric care, support from skilled birth attendants throughout pregnancy and delivery, providing access to family planning, promoting the practice of spacing between births, and supporting women in education and in postponing early marriage age. "

"A holistic and human rights-based approach is needed to tackle the root causes of obstetric fistula. Obstetric fistula will only be eliminated if women are able to make informed decisions about their reproductive lives" Said Dr. Zessler, UNFPA Representative.

Since 2007, MoPH, reproductive health directorate and UNFPA have continued to support the country's first National Obstetric Fistula treatment facility at Malalai Maternity Hospital in Kabul. UNFPA has supported the Malalai Maternity Hospital with medical supplies and equipment and technical capacity building of hospital staff to enable them to treat obstetric fistula patients. Special thanks are due to Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan and its Reproductive Health Directorate for their active stewardship role in managing the fistula center.

In 2010 UNFPA assisted in developing a national obstetric fistula curriculum. Regular refresher training programs have been conducted for the doctors and nurses of Malalai Maternity Hospital over the last 4 years. In partnership with the Afghanistan Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AFSOG) and Afghan Midwifery Association, midwives, female doctors and OBGYNs have been trained to diagnose and prevent obstetric fistula. During the last five years over 200 patients have been treated and rehabilitated. Health care providers have also been trained on provision of psychosocial support and counseling to improve re-integration and rehabilitation of obstetric fistula patients. As a joint advocacy effort by reproductive health directorate as well as UNFPA elimination and treatment of obstetric fistula was included in the revised national Reproductive Health Strategy and Action Plan in 2010.

To mark the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula MoPH and AFSOG with technical and financial support of UNFPA will conduct a mass media campaign to create awareness among the public about obstetric fistula and the availability of treatment for this distressing condition and the root causes that result in this condition.

For more information contact:

MoPH: Kaneshka Turkistani (kaneshkaarab034@gmail.com)

UNFPA: Ruben Litan (litan@unfpa.org)

Dari Press Release

Pashto Press Release

UNFPA Executive Director's Statement