UN Committee calls to intensify efforts to end fistula

24 November, 2014
UN Committee calls to intensify efforts to end fistula
UN resolution acknowledges obstetric fistula as a “notifiable condition” to register and track fistula survivors and calls to involve more men and boys to end the condition. Photo: UN/Amanda Voisard

New York – The Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues of the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UNFPA-backed resolution on obstetric fistula on 21 November 2014. The resolution calls upon the international community to intensify technical and financial support to accelerate progress in the remaining days until the end of 2015 to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5 (increase maternal health) and eliminate fistula.

The Committee’s resolution, co-sponsored by more than 150 Member States, acknowledges obstetric fistula as a “notifiable condition.” By this, fistula survivors should be registered and tracked in order to receive necessary medical treatment and follow-up medical care for future pregnancies.

For the first time, a UN resolution on fistula recognizes the need to involve more men and adolescent boys as partners and allies in the efforts to end the condition.

In its resolution, the Committee urges the international community to address shortages in health workers, including midwives, that limit the capacity of fistula centres.

The resolution calls upon all Member States to ensure the right of women and girls to enjoy the “highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” while paying special attention to the interlinkages between poverty, malnutrition, lack of adequate health services, early childbearing, child marriage, violence against women and girls and gender discrimination as root causes of fistula.

While recognizing that girls are particularly at risk of maternal death and injuries, including obstetric fistula, the Committee expressed concern in the resolution that complications from pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19 in many low and middle-income countries, and that women aged 30 and older are at increased risk of developing complications and of dying during childbirth.

The Committee’s resolution will be presented to the General Assembly for adoption in December 2014.