May 22, 2014
The NGOs AMREF Health Africa, Handicap International, and Tostan, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Senegalese Ministry of Women, Family, and Children, and the Ministry of Health and Social Action in Senegal, organized a day of social mobilization in Ndorna (Kolda region) with the theme “Let us prevent fistula.”
Obstetric fistula is an injury between the vagina and the bladder and/or rectum resulting from prolonged and difficult labor without prompt medical intervention. In most cases, it results in a continuous loss of urine and/or feces. Obstetric fistula mostly affects the most vulnerable girls and women living in remote areas, far from any medical service.
In most cases, stigma pushes women living with the condition to hide and isolate themselves from their families and communities. With the systematic registration and tracking of each woman and girl who has or had an obstetric fistula, it is possible to make enormous strides in improving their well-being and increasing the chances of their babies’ survival during subsequent pregnancies.
In the world, particularly in Africa and Asia, at least two million women live with obstetric fistula. In Senegal, it is estimated that 400 new cases are recorded each year. The prevalence of obstetric fistula remains high in the regions of Kolda, Tambacounda, Ziguinchor, and Matam. Most cases occur when girls marry and get pregnant at a very young age.
According to Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNFPA, “Obstetric fistula highlights persistent global inequalities in access to health care and basic human rights. The time has come to put an end to obstetric fistula and address the circumstances that perpetuate it, including poverty, lack of access to health care, child marriage and early childbearing.”
Molly Melching, Tostan’s Founder and Executive Director, emphasizes the importance of prevention. “Priority should be given to the prevention of fistula. We do that through our basic education program, radio shows, and social mobilization activities. We know that fistula results from child marriage and people understand that to end this disease, we need to abandon marriages before the age of 18.”
For Dr. Mor Ngom, AMREF Health Africa’s Regional Director in West Africa, “ending fistula requires prevention in the affected areas, the treatment of women living with the disease, and support for their reintegration into their communities.”
To address this violation of one’s human right to health, UNFPA, together with its partners, launched in 2003 the Global Campaign to End Fistula. Within 10 years great progress has been made; 47,000 women and girls have undergone reconstructive surgery, with the support of UNFPA.
The initiative to end obstetric fistula is implemented by UNFPA in partnership with Senegal’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Women, Family, and Children, the Urology Services at the General Hospital of Grand Yoff and the Aristide Le Dantec Hospital, the Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic of Le Dantec Hospital, and other NGOs. Through this partnership, more than 600 women were healed and were able to take back their lives.
Sabine Depardé, Handicap International’s Coordinator of Health, Rehabilitation, and Protection said: “The implementation of a healthcare and physiotherapy program improves the results of surgery and reduces the number of failures. The project will implement activities of pre and post-operative physiotherapy. Psychosocial reintegration of women beneficiaries will be an important component implemented by Handicap International. They will be provided with personalized support to facilitate their reintegration into their communities and to help them redevelop an income-generating activity.”
Note to Editors
UNFPA is an agency of the United Nations system that works to make sure every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe and the potential of every youth is reached. Please, visit: http://www.unfpa.org
AMREF is an African non-governmental public health organization founded in 1957. AMREF is an association of doctors who fly across Africa to provide care to remote populations. Please, visit: http://amref.org/
Handicap International has operated in Senegal since 1996. The mission of the association is to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups and promote their full participation in Senegalese society. Please, visit: http://www.handicap-international.fr/en
Tostan is an international NGO registered in the US and headquartered in Senegal whose mission is to empower African communities to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights. Tostan implements its holistic three-year program in six West African countries. To find out more about Tostan, visit www.tostan.org