The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and UNFPA have signed a $7 million landmark agreement to help end obstetric fistula in Sierra Leone and improve the lives of the women and girls suffering from this preventable condition. Sierra Leone has one of the highest lifetime risks of pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity, including obstetric fistula.
Obstetric fistula is one of the most serious and tragic childbirth injuries. Women suffering from obstetric fistula are often stigmatized and isolated from their families and communities. They face significant socioeconomic challenges and often do not have access to social-economic development opportunities in their communities.
“Obstetric fistula is a neglected health and human rights tragedy that affects the most vulnerable women and girls. It is embedded in gender inequalities and social norms and constitutes an impediment to women and girls’ empowerment.” says UNFPA West and Central Africa Regional Director Argentina Matavel-Piccin.
In recent years, Iceland has been supporting the Government of Sierra Leone in its efforts to prevent and treat obstetric fistula, with the aim to improve access to quality maternal health services to prevent and manage obstetric fistula. This new landmark agreement will provide medium- to long-term support to end obstetric fistula in the country, and is part of the global Campaign to End Fistula launched by UNFPA and its partners in 2003.
The five-year programme will take a comprehensive and integrated approach to obstetric fistula, by addressing the gender and other social norms, and health systems challenges contributing to the occurrence of obstetric fistula. The new partnership will strengthen the referral system for surgery and social reintegration initiatives, and will focus on documenting best practices to help shape other existing and future programmes.
By the term of the programme, the capacity of the country’s health system will be strengthened to improve adolescent girls’ and women’s access to integrated sexual and reproductive health services for prevention, treatment and social reintegration of obstetric fistula.
“Iceland has been a firm supporter of the Global Campaign to End Fistula for more than a decade – both financially through UNFPA and through our advocacy efforts for sexual and reproductive health and rights at the international level,” said Thórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörd Gylfadóttir, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development Cooperation of Iceland. “We are very proud to be part of this programme and work together with UNFPA and the Government of Sierra Leone toward the elimination of obstetric fistula in the country.”
“Our long-standing partnership with the Government of Iceland plays a critical role in supporting UNFPA’s ongoing campaign to end obstetric fistula in Sierra Leone and globally, and in restoring women’s dignity worldwide,” said UNFPA’s Matavel-Piccin.