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UNFPA Launches Nationwide Campaign To End Obstetric Fistula

Ms. Ndeye Rose, UNFPA Country Representative to The Gambia

By Landing Ceesay

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)-The Gambia launched a nationwide campaign to end Obstetric Fistula in the country.

 “Like other sub-Saharan countries, The Gambia has its own share of this debilitating condition experienced by women and girls. Underdiagnosed in the Gambia, obstetric fistula is subjecting women to life long silence, exclusion and ill health. Despite the absence of nationally representative data on the prevalence of fistula in the Gambia, estimations are drawn from proxy measures of maternal and perinatal deaths, mortality rates, fistula treatment data as well as contextual data. These estimations record a prevalence rate of 0.46 to 2.05 per 1000 women (Gambia Obstetric Fistula Situational Analysis, 2020). Based on these rates, the current national burden is estimated at between 335 to 1052 cases. These numbers though seemingly low, we believe do not portray the true picture as a lot more women are silently living with the condition, sometimes without even knowing what they are suffering from,” Ms. Ndeye Rose, UNFPA Country Representative to The Gambia said at the launch.

Ms. Rose said it is not enough to only remind themselves of the ‘devastating condition’ many women with Obstetric Fistula on the globe are living, but to commit to ensure they live dignified lives.

She stated that the Fistula figures currently accounted for, indicate the challenges the health system in the Gambia faces in delivering accessible, timely, and appropriate Obstetric care throughout the country.

For her part, Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow, the First Lady of the Gambia said Obstetric Fistula constitutes social tragedy for the victims who are rejected and stigmatized by their families and their communities; adding that Obstetric Fistula serves as an attack on the dignity of the human person.

“The fight against Obstetric Fistula is a fight for human dignity. Indeed fistula, unlike HIV\AIDS, can be easily prevented and treated, if diagnosed properly. However, given the stigma and low awareness associated with this condition, most cases are not reported, also making it difficult to gather accurate data on fistula. Despite the absence of nationally representative data on the prevalence of fistula in the Gambia, estimations are drawn from measures of maternal and perinatal mortality death rates,” the First Lady said.

Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, Minister of Health said the vision of the health policy 2021-2030 is the provision of quality and affordable health services for all within the boundaries of the country by 2030.

He added that the health policy endeavours to attain the highest level of health that commensurate with that of a middle-income country.

“Global Maternal deaths are unacceptably high i.e. one death every two minutes. About 295, 000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth in 2017. The vast majority of these deaths 94% occurred in low-resource settings and most could have been prevented,” Dr. Samateh said.

Meanwhile, Fatou Kinteh, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare said her Ministry is constantly contributing its quota in the fight against Obstetric Fistula under the theme of community empowerment.

“We have done this through the implementation of local programmes and strategies aimed at tackling the complex circumstances and conditions that contribute to the development of obstetric fistula in our various communities. These include poverty, child marriage, lack of male involvement in childbirth issues, female genital mutilation, just to name a few,” she said.

Meanwhile, Obstetric Fistula is one of the most serious and tragic childbirth injuries caused by prolonged, obstructed labour without access to timely, high-quality medical treatment. It is a hole between the birth canal, bladder and rectum. 

The official launch of the UNFPA nationwide campaign against Obstetric Fistula took place earlier on Monday at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Center in Bijilo.

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