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.
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.
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.
The report, recently released by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, calls for systematic notification of fistula cases and the creation of national registers to ensure proper care, follow up and support for all fistula patients.