International Day to end Obstetric Fistula

23th May 2023

Each year between 50 000 to 100 000 women worldwide are affected by obstetric fistula, an abnormal opening between a woman’s genital tract and her urinary tract or rectum. The development of obstetric fistula is directly linked to one of the major causes of maternal mortality: obstructed labour.

Women who experience obstetric fistula suffer constant incontinence, shame, social segregation and health problems. It is estimated that more than 2 million young women live with untreated obstetric fistula in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Obstetric fistula is preventable; it can largely be avoided by:

 •Delaying the age of first pregnancy;

 •The cessation of harmful traditional practices; and

 •Timely access to obstetric care.

Preventing and managing obstetric fistula contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal 3 of improving maternal health.

Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health says between 350 and 1,500 new cases of fistula are reported each year. Seventy-five percent of the cases are reported on Cameroon’s northern region, where more than 80% of civilians seek help from African traditional healers and seldom visit hospitals.

Cameroon reports that 60% of patients seeking help in hospitals have lived with obstetric fistula for more than 5 years. Eighty percent of patients have no formal education and 90% were teenagers when they had their first baby.

Many sufferers are accused of witchcraft and abandoned by their relatives.

‘Let’s stop the stigma by providing adequate information and education on fistula’

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