1st Annual International Day to End Obstretric Fistula, May 23


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The International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

MAY 23

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.

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the Campaign to End Fistula, a collaborative initiative launched by UNFPA and its partners.

Check out Friends of UNFPA’s new infographic to learn more about this debilitating childbirth injury and UNFPA’s work to treat, prevent, and end it.

fistula may 2013

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.

fistula 10 year 2013On 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.

Obstetric fistula is a preventable and treatable childbearing injury, result of prolonged, obstructed labour. It leaves women incontinent, ashamed and often isolated from their communities. A debilitating condition that has left — and continues to leave — hundreds of thousands of women suffering in solitude and shame, obstetric fistula is perhaps one of the most telling examples of inequitable access to maternal health care and, until recently, one of the most hidden.

Over 300 million women worldwide suffer from complications of pregnancy and delivery. For every woman who dies of maternal related causes, at least 20 women experience a maternal morbidity, of which obstetric fistula is one of the most severe forms.

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.

On its resolution A/RES/67/147, the General Assembly calls upon the international community to use each year the International Day to significantly raise awareness and intensify actions towards ending obstetric fistula.

Secretary-General’s Message

Pregnant women have a great deal to look forward to: the miracle of birth, meeting their children, raising them into adulthood. While we may prefer to focus on these happy outcomes, we should also confront the fact that serious risks make this journey a perilous one for those who lack access to proper medical care.

Three million women now live with a condition that develops during childbirth and can have debilitating consequences for decades. Obstetric fistula, which occurs during prolonged or difficult labour, is now rare in the industrialized world but still all too common in poorer countries where inadequate medical care and stigma combine to turn a preventable condition into a devastating one.

Women with obstetric fistula sometimes die in shame abandoned by their families and often suffer lifelong physical and emotional effects – but there is hope. Skilled professionals know how to treat patients. With support, those who have been ostracized can reintegrate into their societies.

Success requires compassion, sensitivity and above all funds. That is why the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is teaming up with partners to spearhead the Global Campaign to End Fistula.

This is part of our broader efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals and mobilize partners in the Every Woman, Every Child initiative. The benefits reverberate far beyond the women who are directly affected, extending to children who will be raised by healthy mothers and communities that benefit from their contributions.

The International Day to End Obstetric Fistula is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a condition that is not well-understood even in societies where it is prevalent, and much less where it is not.

bankimoonThe more understanding and action we generate today, the more we can look forward to a future where obstetric fistula is virtually unknown because it is virtually non-existent.

Let us use this Day to advance this goal of helping mothers, protecting children and advancing progress for all.

Ban Ki-moon


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