Obstetric fistula is a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged labour without prompt medical intervention, usually a Caesarean section. The woman is left with chronic incontinence and in most cases a stillborn baby. view
The smell of leaking urine, faeces or both, is constant and humiliating, often driving the patients' family, friends and neighbors away. If left untreated, fistula can lead to chronic medical problems including ulcerations, kidney disease, and nerve damage in the legs.
Surgery can normally repair the injury. The average cost of fistula treatment and post-operative care is US $400. Sadly, most women with the condition do not know that treatment is available, and most times they cannot afford it.
Like maternal mortality, fistula is almost entirely preventable. But at least 2 million women in Africa, Asia and the Arab region are living with the condition, with about 50,000 to 100,000 new cases each year. The persistence of fistula signals that health systems are failing to meet the needs of women.
Obstetric fistula occurs most often among impoverished girls and women, especially those living in regions without adequate medical services. Affecting the most powerless members of society, it touches issues related to reproductive health and rights, gender equality, poverty and adolescent reproductive health.
That is why, in 2003, UNFPA and its partners launched the global Campaign to End Fistula, a collaborative initiative to prevent fistula and restore the health and dignity of those affected by the condition.
Child marriage not only violates the human rights of girls, but also gravely threatens their lives, education opportunities, health and future prospects. When girls are married, they are expected to begin childbearing while still children themselves, increasing their risks for pregnancy-related complications—a major cause of death and disability for adolescent girls in the developing world. We travel to Mozambique, a country with one of the highest rates of child marriage and maternal death in the world, along with wide prevalence of a devastating childbirth injury called obstetric fistula. But efforts are underway to change mindsets and to ensure all young girls enjoy their human rights. This film is included in the UN in Action series.