About 800 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. For every woman who dies of maternal related causes, it is estimated that at least 20 women experience a maternal morbidity, one of the most severe forms of which is obstetric fistula.
Obstetric fistula symptoms generally manifest in the early post-partum period. However, other, equally severe symptoms such as psychological trauma, deteriorating health, increasing poverty, and social stigmatization by family and friends can and often do occur.
Obstetric fistula can be prevented and in most cases treated. Reconstructive surgery with a trained, expert fistula surgeon can repair the injury, with success rates as high as 90 percent for less complex cases. The average cost of fistula treatment—including surgery, post-operative care and rehabilitation support—is $300 per patient.
Obstetric fistula is preventable; it can largely be avoided by:
- delaying the age of first pregnancy;
- the cessation of harmful traditional practices; and
- timely access to obstetric care.
Preventing and managing obstetric fistula contribute to reaching the Millennium Development Goal 5 of improving maternal health.
On December 18, 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on obstetric fistula. The resolution calls on the international community to intensify technical and financial support to maternal health efforts, including action to eliminate fistula, before the end of 2015. The end of next year is the deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, including Goal 5, which calls for improving maternal health.
The resolution also calls for improved registration and follow-up for fistula survivors to improve their access to medical treatment and to ensure they are able to receive obstetric care during future pregnancies.
It was co-sponsored by more than 150 Member States and was adopted by consensus.