In December 2012, 167 countries from around the world co-sponsored a biannual resolution at the United Nations General Assembly that called on all Member States to support the activities of UNFPA and its partners in the Campaign to End Fistula. The resolution also called for greater technical and financial support, in particular to high-burden countries, in order to accelerate progress towards achieving MDG5, on maternal health, and eliminating obstetric fistula. It also underlined the need to accelerate effort to address child marriage.
In addition, the UNFPA-backed resolution on Supporting Efforts to End Obstetric Fistula acknowledged the plight of millions of women and girls living with obstetric fistula by designating 23 May as the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. The Day was to be observed every year, beginning in 2013.
On 23 May 2013, countries around the world will mark the first-ever fistula day with a variety of events that will raise awareness of this severely neglected health and human rights tragedy, highlight progress made over the last decade, and generate new political and financial support for the global movement to end the condition. These events will include a special observance at the United Nations in New York, with the participation of fistula survivors, in addition to advocates and practitioners who have dedicated their careers to put an end to this dreadful condition.
What makes this year’s observance more remarkable is that it coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Campaign to End Fistula, which was launched by UNFPA, in collaboration with a wide range of partners. The Campaign is currently active in more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, the Arab states and Latin America. Over that decade, UNFPA has directly supported over 34,000 women and girls to receive surgical fistula treatment; its partner agencies have supported thousands more.
Obstetric fistula affects approximately two million women and girls worldwide, endangering their lives and ostracizing them from their communities. The good news is we already know how to solve the problem. Through prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, this global health crisis can end once and for all, and make the problem as rare in the developing world as it is in Western Europe and North America. The first annual Day to End Obstetric Fistula is an important step toward that goal.