World Fistula Day: UNFPA tasks all to sustain Hamlin’s aspiration of ending fistula

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World Fistula Day

UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has called on the global community to sustain late Dr. Catherine Hamlin’s aspiration of ending the preventable condition of fistula.

Dr Natalia Kanem, the Executive Director, UNFPA, made the appeal in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) by Mrs Kori Habib, the Media Associate of UNFPA Nigeria, in Abuja on Friday.

Kanem called for a synergy of all stakeholders in accordance with the vision of late Dr Hamlin targeted at overcoming fistula and its consequences, especially in protecting lives of young women and babies at the rural communities.

“Let us work in Dr Hamlin’s memory towards fulfilling her lifelong dream and our long-held aspiration to eliminate this preventable condition.

“In doing so, we will help protect the health and human rights of the poorest and most vulnerable women and girls,” she said.

According to her, on this International Day to End Fistula, the memory of the late Dr Catherine Hamlin, who passed away in March this year, looms large.

The executive director explained that it was time to not only treat women and girls with fistula with focus on the physical injury itself, but also on the scars created by stigma and discrimination.

Kanem called for a replication of Hamlin’s charitable organisation which brought hope and healing to women and girls, raising global awareness of fistula and spurred innovative efforts to end it.

She attributed likely increase in obstetric fistula on the absence of timely medical treatment as a result of serious childbirth injury occasioned by prolonged and obstructed labour.

“Poor women and girls in rural areas are especially at risk. The disproportionate incidence among the poor of this debilitating and sometimes life-threatening condition is a reflection of social and economic inequities and of unequal enjoyment of the right to health, including sexual and reproductive health.

“Even in the best of times, they are more likely to lack access to skilled health personnel. Child marriage and early childbearing are among other contributing factors,” the executive director said.

She, however, said that while fistula has been virtually eliminated in developed nations, hundreds of thousands of women and girls in the developing world still live with this debilitating condition.

Kanem assured that as leader of the global Campaign to end Fistula, UNFPA would continue to provide funding and support for fistula prevention, treatment and social reintegration programmes.

“Since 2003, we have enabled more than 113,000 women to undergo obstetric fistula repair surgery.

“Last November, the world convened in Nairobi to celebrate the tremendous gains of the past 25 years in advancing the health and rights of women and girls.

“With a deep sense of urgency, purpose and hope, leaders from around the world – from presidents to the grassroots, from refugees to royalty, from youth activists to CEOs  – committed to accelerating action to ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.”

The executive director described the moment as a time “the commitment is being tested like never before”.

“As health systems struggle to respond to COVID-19, the pandemic stands to take a huge global toll on maternal and newborn health.

“Already, the crisis is compounding the economic, social and logistical barriers that women and girls face in accessing sexual and reproductive health services.

“Even where services are available and accessible, fear, misinformation and stigma related to COVID-19 are deterring some pregnant women from seeking obstetric care.”

Kanem, therefore, expressed the determination of UNFPA towards accelerating efforts aimed at achieving their global ambition of ending fistula by 2030, the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals.

She said: “Towards that end, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic must ensure the delivery of essential sexual and reproductive health services, including midwifery services and emergency obstetric care.” (NAN)

– May 22, 2020 @ 15:29 GMT |

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