Fast Facts

 Facts about fistula:

  • Obstetric fistula is preventable and treatable.
  • Fistula has virtually been eliminated in Europe and North America through improved obstetric care.
  • Women in sub-Saharan Africa suffer almost twice as much illness from sexual and reproductive health causes than women in the whole world.
  • At least two million women live with fistula in developing countries, with 50,000 to 100,000 new cases occurring each year. These figures are based only on the number of women who seek treatment.
  • In areas with high maternal mortality, fistula may occur at a rate of two to three cases per 1,000 pregnancies.
  • About 15 per cent of all pregnancies result in complications that require emergency medical intervention.
  • Only 58 per cent of women in developing countries deliver with the assistance of a professional (a midwife or doctor) and only 40 per cent give birth in a hospital or health centre.
  • The average cost of fistula treatment—including surgery, post-operative care and rehabilitation support—is $400, which is well beyond the reach of most women with the condition.
  • However, after treatment former fistula patients can have a normal life again.
  • Prevention is the key to ending fistula.
  • The Campaign to End Fistula, launched by UNFPA and partners in 2003, is now present in 50 countries across Africa, Asia and the Arab region.

Key strategies to address fistula:

  • Provide access to adequate medical care for all pregnant women.
  • Provide emergency obstetric care for those who develop complications.
  • Increase access to education and family planning services for women and men.
  • Postpone pregnancy for young girls until they are physically mature.
  • Improve girls' nutrition to  minimize the risk of complications during childbirth.
  • Repair physical and emotional damages through specialized interventions.