obstetric care

International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

Due to COVID-19, it is expected that 13 million more child marriages could take place by 2030 than would have otherwise. Families are more likely to marry off daughters to alleviate the perceived burden of caring for them, especially in the anticipated economic fallout of the pandemic.

In turn, the fight to end obstetric fistula, one of the most serious and tragic injuries that can occur during childbirth, could be threatened by COVID-19.

Obstetric fistula is preventable; it can largely be avoided by delaying the age of first pregnancy; the cessation of harmful traditional practices; and timely access to obstetric care. Unfortunately, the current pandemic affects all these preventive measures in developing countries where obstetric fistula still exists – countries in which health care systems, even before the coronavirus outbreak, failed to provide accessible, quality maternal health care.

The pandemic is also expected to cause significant delays in programmes to end female genital mutilation (FGM) – something that could lead to a spike in FGM cases, according to UNFPA, which is a contributing factor for obstetric fistula.

As the virus advances in these countries, health services become overloaded, or provide a limited set of the services that women need. At the same time, many women and girls also skip important medical check-ups for fear of contracting the virus.

With this possible future scenario of preventive measures in danger, now more than ever, it is important to call on the international community to use the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula to significantly raise awareness and intensify actions towards ending obstetric fistula, as well as urging post-surgery follow-up and tracking of fistula patients.

To read personal testimonials and learn more about how the UN commemorates this day, visit un.org/en/observances/end-fistula-day.


CoNGO Notes: For more information on the NGO Committee for Rare Diseases, please visit ngocommitteerarediseases.org. For more information on the NGO Committee on Human Rights, please email the co-chairs at bobbinassar@gmail.com or bknotts@uua.org. For more information on the NGO Committee on the Status of Women-NY, please visit ngocsw.org. For more information on the NGO Committee on the Status of Women-Vienna, please visit ngocswvienna.org. ngocsw-geneva.ch.