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International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

The United Nations (UN) defines obstetric fistula as "a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum, caused by prolonged, obstructed labor without access to timely, high-quality medical treatment." As of 2024, about 50,000 to 100,000 women were affected by it each year. International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, designated with UN resolution 67/147 on December 20, 2012, and first observed on May 23, 2013, raises awareness and intensifies efforts to eradicate obstetric fistula.

Women and girls who suffer from obstetric fistula leak urine, feces, or both, and the condition often leads to chronic medical problems, depression, social isolation, and the deepening of poverty. In addition, ninety percent of pregnancies that involve obstetric fistula end in stillbirth. Obstetric fistula occurs more often in impoverished, underserved, and marginalized women and girls, and is almost entirely preventable. Three cost-effective ways it can be prevented are through timely access to high-quality emergency obstetric and newborn care, having trained professionals with midwifery skills available at childbirth, and universal access to modern contraception. Healthcare systems can reduce it by correcting gaps in care, ensuring universal access to a competent healthcare workforce, and tracking the prevalence of its occurrence.

The UN states that obstetric fistula can be eradicated by bold political leadership and investment, and in 2020 they had a ten-year goal of ending it. The global campaign for its eradication is led by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The campaign aims to transform the lives of vulnerable women and girls, and focuses on prevention and holistic treatment: surgical repair, social reintegration, and rehabilitation. International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, observed today, is part of this effort to end the condition.

How to Observe International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

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