UN adopts resolution on obstetric fistula
On 9 November 2010, the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee of the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution Supporting Efforts to End Obstetric Fistula. WHO's Department of Making Pregnancy Safer (MPS), together with other members of the International Obstetric Fistula Working Group, contributed to this resolution that was presented by the African Group and co-sponsored by 172 countries.
Obstetric fistula is a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged and neglected labour. The woman is left with incontinence and, in most cases, a stillborn baby. Left untreated, fistula can lead to chronic medical problems and a life of social isolation.
Like maternal mortality, fistula is almost entirely preventable with skilled care during birth and access to emergency obstetric care. But at least two million women in Africa, Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean are living with the condition, and there are an estimated 50 000 to 100 000 new cases each year. The persistence of fistula is a signal that health systems are failing to meet the needs of women. Obstetric fistula occurs disproportionately among impoverished girls and women, especially those living far from medical services.
The resolution calls for renewed focus on obstetric fistula through specific programmes and additional resources. It reflects the many concrete recommendations made in a report from the UN Secretary-General on the issue which was presented at the 65th UN General Assembly in September, and links with the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, the Millennium Development Goals, and the various initiatives and commitments made by Member States and other stakeholders to achieve them.
As member of the International Obstetric Fistula Working Group, MPS is contributing to the global Campaign to End Fistula led by UNFPA. The Department is leading the working group on prevention, and will present key activities at a meeting taking place 5-6 December 2010 in Dakar, Senegal.