Every day, more than 800 women die from pregnancy-related complications. For every woman who dies, 20 or more are injured or disabled. One of the most serious injuries of childbearing is obstetric fistula, a tear in the birth canal caused by prolonged, obstructed labour in the absence of timely and adequate medical care. Fistula has been virtually eliminated in developed nations, but in the developing world, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of women and girls live with the condition. Many women and girls who suffer from fistula are ostracized from daily community life and abandoned by their husbands and families, isolating them socially and emotionally, making it also difficult to maintain sources of income or support, thus deepening their poverty and magnifying their suffering. However, obstetric fistula is preventable and, in most cases, can be repaired surgically.
The persistence of fistula reflects broader health inequities and health-care system constraints, as well as wider challenges facing women and girls, such as poverty, gender and socioeconomic inequality, lack of schooling, child marriage and early childbearing, all of which impede the well-being of and opportunities for women and girls. While significant progress has been made, far more needs to be done. Most women and girls living with fistula will never receive treatment due to lack of services or because the procedure is unaffordable to them.
May 23 is observed as International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. The day is commemorated to raise awareness of the detrimental effects of fistula on women’s lives and advocate for more investment in women’s health and rights. UNFPA has been working to end fistula in Sierra Leone through our implementing partners Aberdeen Women’s Centre and Haikal, who provide treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration services to women affected by the injury. Sierra Leone will join countries around the world to commemorate the day by implementing community engagement activities and celebrating fistula survivors. The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Fistula is a human rights violation – end it now!”
The objectives of the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula commemoration are to:
- Celebrate fistula survivors and recognize their resilience and dignity.
- Engage the public to increase awareness of obstetric fistula and promote shared ownership for its eradication.
- Highlight UNFPA’s work to combat fistula.
- Advocate for increased political will and resources from stakeholders to end fistula.
The day’s commemoration will consist of:
- Gladi-Gladi Ceremony
There will be a “gladi-gladi” ceremony at the Aberdeen Women’s Centre on the morning of May 23rd. The gladi-gladi ceremony is a joyous celebration accompanying the discharge of recovered fistula patients from the health facility. The ceremony will include:
- Statements from donors, partners and service providers highlighting their work to end fistula and making further commitments.
- A play performed by patients and survivors to convey messages on prevention and treatment of fistula.
- Interactive sessions between partners and fistula patients and survivors.
- A celebration of fistula survivors which will include song and dance, and a performance by a dance troupe.
- Media coverage including interviews, photography and filming.
Key outcomes expected from the day’s activities are:
- Community participation in celebrating the restoration of dignity to fistula survivors.
- Increased public awareness of obstetric fistula and UNFPA’s work to end it.
- Increased community engagement with fistula programmes and initiatives.
|International Day to End Obstetric Fistula|
|Thursday 23rd May 2019|
|1||Opening Prayers||Ms. Mariama Samco-Deen||9:00|
|2||Introduction of Partners||Mr. Alie Kamara||9:05 – 9:15|
|3||Opening Statement||Ms. Ivy Kalama||9:15-9:25|
|4||Statement by Partners|
|UNFPA||Dr. Kim Eva Dickson||9:25 – 9:35|
|Ministry of Health and Sanitation||District Medical Officer, Western Area Urban||9:35 – 9:45|
|Haikal||Haja Hawa Turay||9:45 – 9:55|
|5||Skit||Hagar and patients||9:55 – 10:25|
|6||Vote of Thanks||Vesico-Vaginal Fistula Nurse||10:25 – 10:30|
|7||Gladi-Gladi Ceremony||Patients and Dance Troop||10:30 -11:00|