Obstetric Fistula: Worldwide inequalities in maternal health

Last week, UNFPA hosted the International Obstetric Fistula working group in Maputo, Mozambique. Obstetric fistula is a striking indication of the insufficient maternal health care that exists in some parts of the world.

Obstetric fistula is a condition in which a fistula (hole/ communication) develops between the vagina (birth canal) and bladder or vagina and rectum as a result of a severe and obstructed labour during childbirth.

Worldwide, 5 % of women across the globe will undergo an obstructed labour but fortunately not all will result in obstetric fistula. In developed countries, with good access to healthcare, Caesarean sections and assisted delivery are available. However, in developing countries, with limited access to healthcare an obstructed labour can result in stillbirth of the child and fistula, resulting in incontinence and stigma for the mother.

The WHO estimates that each year between 50,000 to 100,000 women worldwide are affected by obstetric fistula (WHO 2010) with an estimated 2 million living with untreated fistula in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

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