December 19, 2012

Crown Princess fights fistula in Mozambique

Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, UNFPA patron to promote maternal health around the world, opened the photo exhibition “Lives in Reconstruction” in Beira, Mozambique during her recent goodwill tour to the country.

In her opening statement, Her Royal Highness re-confirmed her commitment to increase awareness of obstetric fistula, a terrible childbirth injury that affects at least 20 women annually for every women who dies in childbirth in Mozambique -- as many as 500 out of every 100,000 live births.

“It is my hope that the stories of these fistula survivors will help inform and create greater understanding of what fistula is, and that families, communities and leaders will do their part to prevent new cases in the country,” said Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary.

The Crown Princess dedicated the exhibition to the hope of a brighter future for every woman still enduring the devastating consequences of fistula in Mozambique. Prior to the opening, Her Royal Highness also had the opportunity to talk with some of the women treated for obstetric fistula at Beira Central Hospital and listen to their stories.

The opening, hosted by Forum Mulher, a women's network organization in the country, and UNFPA Mozambique, was also attended by The Minister of Corporation and Development of Denmark, Christian Friis Bach, Government representatives, surgeons, fistula survivors, and youth association representatives.

The exhibition, which features 16 rehabilitated fistula survivors from Mossurize District, Manica Province, demonstrates that obstetric fistula can be repaired and that women treated for it can return to their lives.

Their testimonies serve as inspiration for other women still living with the condition, in the hope that they may follow in the footsteps of the women from Mossurize and seek rehabilitation. The exhibition can also help renew the commitment to accelerate efforts to prevent new cases and provide treatment and social reintegration for other fistula victims.

Lucia, 20, is one of the 16 faces portrayed in “Lives in Reconstruction.” She developed obstetric fistula as a result of teenage pregnancy, a prevalent issue in Mozambique. “During the four years I suffered with fistula, I didn’t feel comfortable going to school because of my smell. Now I am eager to learn how to read, write and, hopefully, one day start my own second-hand clothing business at the local market.”

Lucia Muiambo, Mossurize, Mozambique. Photo: Gloria Santos, 2011

The exhibition “Lives in Reconstruction” was first launched in Maputo last year in the context of the Obstetric Fistula International Working Group meeting, hosted by the Ministry of Health and UNFPA.

Supported by UNFPA, the fistula activities will continue to expand in other provinces of Mozambique as part of the sensitization efforts by Forum Mulher in the area of sexual and reproductive health, with a specific focus on obstetric fistula.

Reported by Helene Christensen, UNFPA Mozambique, with edits by Christine Long and the UNFPA Nordic Office.

Cover photo by Torkil Adersen / Scanpix.