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At event to mark International Day, UNFPA calls for more action to end obstetric fistula

24 May 2018
Fistula survivors perform a skit at the commemoration

The International Day to end Obstetric Fistula was observed on May 23 with calls for stakeholders to take decisive action to put an end to the suffering caused by obstetric fistula.At the event held at Kavule Primary School in Kibuku district, UNFPA and partners including the Ministry of Health, WHO and civil society organisations came together to shine a spotlight on the magnitude of Obstetric Fistula, and the toll it takes on women and girls and their families. Songs, drama and testimonies by fistula survivors were some of the highlights of the event.

The national commemoration was preceded by a week-long fistula repair camp at Mbale Regional Referral Hospital supported by UNFPA. A total of 25 women and girls with fistula were successfully repaired.

In her remarks, UNFPA Deputy Representative Ms. Miranda Tabifor noted that while the prevalence of fistula in Uganda has reduced over the last five years, 1,900 new case are still recorded every year and the country has a backlog of 75,000 untreated cases.

“We need to do more to plug this gap, by ensuring that even more survivors are able to access life-changing surgeries,” she said. Ms. Tabifor also appealed to stakeholders to redouble efforts to prevent fistula by supporting girls to stay in school and delay the age of first pregnancy and providing them accurate sexual and reproductive health information and services. She also called for family planning services to be made more accessible as a critical step in preventing unplanned pregnancies.  

The State Minister for General Duties, Ms. Sarah Opendi, who was the Guest of Honour, called for punitive measures to be taken against perpetrators of underage marriages. Speaking directly to the community members in attendance, she explained that child marriage, which is prevalent in the area, gives rise to teenage pregnancy which explains the high number of young girls suffering from fistula.

Ms. Opendi pledged that her Ministry would do more to support the provision of preventive services and improve access to skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetric care. She appreciated partners for their efforts to support the Ministry of Health in tackling fistula, singling out UNFPA which she said has stood by the Health Ministry in its efforts to tackle fistula and other reproductive health concerns. With UNFPA support, 1,350 women with fistula were treated in 2017, accounting for 67% of the 2,045 cases repaired countrywide.

Ms. Tabifor said ending fistula was a priority for UNFPA and pledged continued support for interventions to address the issue.“We cannot give up until every single woman and girl living with fistula has been treated. We cannot give up until every fistula survivor receives the social reintegration and support services she needs to rebuild her life, reclaim her dignity, and restore her hope and dreams for the future,” she said.

 

By Martha Songa