In 2003, UNFPA and its partners launched a global Campaign to End Fistula, in line with international targets to improve maternal and newborn health and with the goal of making obstetric fistula as rare in developing countries as in the developed world.
In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to end it by 2030 and reiterated the goal in 2020.
Ending fistula globally demands strong political leadership, strategic and urgent intervention, significantly increased resources and strengthened collaboration between governments, partners, civil society, health care providers, women and communities.
Since its inception, the Campaign has helped restore the health, dignity, sense of self-worth and agency of more than 100,000 of the world’s poorest and marginalized women and girls by repairing fistulas and providing rehabilitation and reintegration services and support. In 2017, the Campaign to End Fistula received the Women’s Empowerment Award from the United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU) Foundation for its:
Action for a new global agenda grounded in principles of rights, inclusiveness and equality.”
Alongside its partners, the campaign works in more than 55 countries across Africa, Asia and the Arab region and the Caribbean.
It focuses on these four pillars:
The most effective way to prevent fistula is to ensure universal access to timely, quality maternal health care services including family planning, skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetric and newborn care. Prevention also entails tackling underlying social, economic and gender inequities to empower women and girls, enhance their life opportunities and delay marriage as well as pregnancy.
While prevention is ideal, all women and girls with fistula deserve to be treated with dignity as a human right. The average cost of fistula treatment – including surgery, post-operative care and rehabilitation support – is approximately $600. The Campaign supports all areas of treatment, from training and mentoring doctors in fistula surgery to equipping and upgrading fistula centres.
Rehabilitation and reintegration
Treatment goes beyond the physical. Many patients – especially those who have lived with the condition for years – need emotional, economic, social and medical support to fully recover from their ordeal. The Campaign provides counselling, skills training and other rehabilitative services to empower them after surgery. Engaging communities also helps ensure that women are accepted back into their families and communities without being stigmatized.
Advocacy and resource mobilization
Ending obstetric fistula by 2030, as called for in the new UN Resolution on fistula is a tall order and a very ambitious goal. To achieve it, dramatically increased effort, commitment, investment, and action are urgently required. As the global convener of key stakeholders working to eliminate fistula worldwide, UNFPA & the Campaign to End Fistula prioritize advocacy and resource mobilization at global, regional, and national levels, with public and private sectors, galvanizing all key actors to help make the dream a reality.
International day to end obstetric fistula
In December 2012, 167 countries co-sponsored a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly that called on all Member States to support the activities of UNFPA and its partners in the Campaign to End Fistula.