The Campaign

Preventing Fistula Saves Mothers' Lives

Some 800 women die every day in Africa or Asia in childbirth.

For each woman who dies, a family is shattered. Surviving children are deprived of a mother's care and put at risk. Communities suffer. These deaths represent the ultimate failure of maternal health care.

The toll is more than 300,000 women lost each year from treatable causes: severe bleeding, infections, hypertensive disorders, obstructed labour or complications from unsafe abortion.

The two million or more women who await fistula repair were very nearly part of this grim statistic. They survived the physical and emotional trauma of obstructed labour to become living reminders of health system failures. All too often, however, these women have been hidden away and forgotten.

By working to prevent fistula, the global Campaign to End Fistula aims to reduce the ongoing tragedy of maternal death and injury. The experiences of women who narrowly survived traumatic deliveries help us understand what is wrong with health services and impart urgency to the challenge of preventing this tragedy from recurring.

Spokespeople


Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark

One of the highlights of the Women Deliver Conference in Washington D.C., held in June 2010, was the meeting between Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, and two fistula survivors and advocates: Sarah Omega, from Kenya, and Ms. Awatif Altayib, from West Darfur, Sudan. The Crown Princess, a patron of UNFPA, was deeply moved by their stories. It was an important opportunity for me to learn more about the maternal health challenges that persist in developing countries. Sarah and Awatif lent a face to all women who have suffered due to the lack of access to skilled attendants during pregnancy and childbirth. This is something developed nations take for granted but is still very much a luxury in many countries in the developing world,” said the Crown Princess of Denmark.




Natalie Imbruglia

As a Spokesperson for the UNFPA-led Campaign to End Fistula and an Ambassador for Virgin Unite, Natalie Imbruglia —singer/actress— is helping to raise awareness and funds for this little-known childbearing condition. Imbruglia first heard about fistula while speaking to Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group, a charitable organization supporting the campaign. In January 2005, she visited fistula hospitals in Ethiopia and Nigeria with representatives from UNFPA and Virgin Unite. Deeply moved, she felt compelled to act and remains involved in the fight against fistula.


"For some people, fistula is a difficult issue to talk about. But that discomfort pales in comparison to what women living with fistula face every day," Imbruglia says. "I don't want to be part of the silence. I want to do everything I can to make a difference in these women's lives."




Christy Turlington Burns

As the founder of Every Mother Counts, maternal health advocate Christy Turlington Burns became increasingly aware of major causes of ill maternal health during her many missions abroad.


At clinics supported by UNFPA, she met women receiving quality health care that could potentially transform their lives. She has raised her voice against discrimination and inequality, mobilizing communities and decision makers to make the world a better place for women and girls, a place in which they can make voluntary and informed choices about their own reproductive health.


During her mission to Bangladesh in 2011, she visited and filmed at the fistula hospital supported by UNFPA in the capital. She also created an educational module on obstetric fistula, which features the UNFPA program at the Dhaka Medical College to help women who suffered from fistula get back on their feet.




Catarina Furtado

Portuguese television celebrity and UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, Ms. Catarina Furtado was deeply moved by the stories of fistula suduring her recent visit to a fistula ward in Mansoa, a major city in the Oio region, 55 km from the capital, Bissau. Ms. Furtado is committed to help reducing maternal mortality and morbidities like obstetric fistula, which in turn is bringing hope and dignity back to many women in Africa.


 



Partners

1.     Aden Hospital, Yemen

2.     African Medical & Research Foundation (AMREF) 

3.     American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM)

4.     Babbar Ruga Fistula Hospital

5.     Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA)  

6.     Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health

7.     Bugando Medical Centre, Tanzania

8.     CARE  

9.     Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

10.   Centre Mère-Enfant, Chad

11.   Centre National de Référence en Fistule Obstétricale (CNRFO), Niger

12.   Centre National de Santé de la Reproduction et du Traitement des Fistules, Chad

13.   Columbia University's Averting Maternal Death and Disability Program (AMDD)

14.   Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT)

15.   CURE International Hospital of Kabul, Afghanistan

16.   Direct Relief International

17.   Dr. Abbo's National Fistula and Urogynaecology Center, Sudan

18.   East Central and Southern Africa Association of Obstetrical and Gynaecological Societies (ECSAOGS)

19.   EngenderHealth

20.   Equilibres & Populations

21.   Eritrea Women's Project

22.   Family Care International

23.   Fistula e.V.

24.   Fistula Foundation

25.   Fistula Foundation Nigeria

26.   Freedom from Fistula Foundation

27.   Friends of UNFPA

28.   Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research (GFMER)

29.   Girls' Globe

30.   Governess Films

31.   Gynocare Fistula Center, Kenya

32.   Hamlin Fistula, Ethiopia

33.   Healing Hands of Joy

34.   Health and Development International

35.   Health Poverty Action, Sierra Leone

36.   Hope Again Fistula Support Organization (HAFSO), Uganda

37.   Human Rights Watch

38.   Institut de Formation et de Recherche en Urologie et Santé de la Famille (IFRU-SF), Senegal

39.   International Confederation of Midwives (ICM)

40.   International Continence Society (ICS)

41.   International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO)

42.   International Forum of Research Donors (IFORD)

43.   International Nepal Fellowship (INF)

44.   International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)

45.   International Society of Obstetric Fistula Surgeons (ISOFS)

46.   International Urogynechology Association (IUGA)

47.   International Women’s Health Coalition

48.   Islamic Development Bank

49.   Johnson & Johnson

50.   Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

51.   Kupona Foundation

52.   Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic

53.   Ligue d'Initiative et de Recherche Active Pour la Santé et l'Education de la Femme (LIRASEF), Cameroon

54.   London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

55.   Maputo Central Hospital, Mozambique

56.   Médecins du Monde

57.   Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)

58.   Mercy Ships

59.   Moi University, Kenya

60.   Monze Hospital, Zambia

61.   Mulago Hospital and School, Uganda

62.   National Obstetric Fistula Centre of Abakiliki, Nigeria

63.   Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Bangladesh (OGSB)

64.   One by One

65.   OperationFISTULA

66.   Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health

67.   Pan African Urological Surgeons Association (PAUSA)

68.   Population Media Center

69.   Psychology Beyond Borders

70.   Regional Prevention of Maternal Mortality Network (RPMM)

71.   Royal College Of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG)

72.   Sana'a Hospital, Yemen

73.   Selian Fistula Project

74.   Société Africaine des Gynécologues-Obstétriciens (SAGO)

75.   Société Internationale d’Urologie

76.   Solidarité Femmes Africaines (SOLFA)

77.   The Association for the Rehabilitation and Re-Orientation of Women for Development (TERREWODE), Uganda

78.   Uganda Childbirth Injury Fund

79.   United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

80.   United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

81.   University of Aberdeen

82.   University Teaching Hospital of Yaounde, Cameroon

83.    Virgin Unite 

84.   White Ribbon Alliance

85.   Women and Health Alliance International (WAHA)

86.   Women's Health Organization International (WHOI)

87.   Women's Hope International (WHI)

88.   Women's Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (WMS-AMEC)

89.   World Health Organization (WHO)

90.   World Vision

91.   Worldwide Fistula Fund

92.   Zonta International

SUPPORTERS

The United Nations Population Fund acknowledges with gratitude the multi-donor support generated toward strengthening and improving maternal health in the world. We also extended our gratitude to our many partners and individual donors for their collaboration and support of the Campaign to End Fistula since its inception, including:

Arab Gulf Programme for UN Development Organizations
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through EngenderHealth
European Voice
Friends of UNFPA
Government of Australia
Government of Austria
Government of Canada
Government of Finland
Government of Iceland
Government of Ireland
Government of Japan through the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security
Government of Luxembourg
Government of New Zealand
Government of Norway
Government of Poland
Government of the Republic of Korea
Government of Spain
Government of Sweden
Government of Switzerland
Johnson & Johnson
Kingdom of Spain, Autonomous Community of Catalunya
UNFCU Foundation
United Nations Foundation
Virgin Unite
Women's Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
Zonta International

International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

23 May is the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, which promotes action towards treating and preventing obstetric fistula, a condition that affects many girls and women in developing countries. More

About

In 2003, UNFPA and its partners launched a global Campaign to End Fistula in line with international targets to improve maternal health and with the goal of reducing the number of obstetric fistula patients, especially in developing countries.

In recent years, the Campaign has drawn the attention of policymakers, health officials, affected communities and individuals, as well as the general public to the issue of fistula.

Campaign to End Fistula countries

The Campaign has made remarkable progress but the needs are great. Ending fistula worldwide will demand political interventions, additional resources, and strengthened collaboration between governments, partners and the civil society.

The Campaign, in conjunction with its partners, is now working in more than 50 countries across Africa, Asia and the Arab region. In each country, it focuses on three key areas:

  • Prevention
 The most effective way to prevent fistula is to increase access to quality maternal health care services including family planning, skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetric care. Prevention also entails tackling underlying social and economic inequities to empower women and girls, enhance their life opportunities, and delay marriage as well as pregnancy.
  • Treatment
 While prevention is our focus, there is a strong commitment to treating patients. The average cost of fistula treatment—including surgery, post-operative care and rehabilitation support—is $400. The Campaign supports all areas of treatment, from training doctors in fistula surgery to equipping and upgrading fistula centres.
  • Rehabilitation
 Fistula treatment goes beyond repairing the hole in a woman’s tissue. Many patients—especially those who have lived with the condition for years—will need emotional, economic and social support to fully recover from their ordeal. Through the Campaign, women receive counselling and skills training to empower them after surgery. Working with communities is also key because it ensures women are accepted back into society without being stigmatized.

Get Involved

The world’s population topped 7 billion in October 2011. This unique moment in human history represented both an opportunity and a challenge, and is having an impact on every single person on the planet.

Obstetric fistula is one of the most devastating consequences of unequal access to health care during pregnancy and childbirth. Its persistence is a sure signal that health systems in many low-income countries are failing to meet the needs of women, a challenge that will be more and more difficult to address as the population grows.

A world of 7 billion people has implications for sustainability, access to health services and youth empowerment. However, it also offers a rare opportunity to renew global commitment for a healthy and sustainable world.

Tell us how you are making a difference to End Fistula. Share on Facebook and Twitter or learn how to get involved.

How to support the Campaign

Here are some ways to build awareness and support in your community for this neglected issue:

Lend your voice: Inform your elected officials about fistula and the importance of safe motherhood or write a "letter to the editor" about fistula to your local newspaper.

Dine out: Partner with a local restaurant to donate a portion of one night's profits to the Campaign.

Clean your house: Hold a garage sale or auction off items on the Internet, with proceeds directed to the Campaign.

Talk to your boss: Encourage your company to support the Campaign.

Campaign on campus: Raise awareness of this issue on your university or school through video screenings and fundraising events.

Give a gift: Ask friends and family to give to the Campaign in lieu of holiday or birthday gifts.

Send an article

We would love to hear from you! Send us your stories, and we will post them on our web site.

For more information on how to get involved, contact us at fistulacampaign@unfpa.org.

The Campaign to End Fistula lives from the commitement of its partners and people engaged to fight this dreadful condition.

Send us your story, and we will post it on our website. Don't forget to provide some good photos with a caption and credits.

When writing about fistula survivors, the following guidelines should help you portray them.

How to portray fistula survivors

Fistula survivors are women who experienced prolonged, obstructed labour and developed obstetric fistula.

When portraying obstetric fistula survivors and advocates, it is crucial to highlight the links between obstetric fistula and maternal health in general, helping empower, not victimize them.