Zonta International statement on International Day to End Obstetric Fistula 2021

Today, Zonta International recognizes International Day to End Obstetric Fistula under the theme, “Women's rights are human rights! End fistula now!”

A serious childbirth injury, obstetric fistula is a hole between the birth canal and bladder and/or rectum. The preventable problem is caused by prolonged, obstructed labor without access to timely, high-quality medical treatment.

Obstetric fistula leaves women with incontinence problems and often leads to chronic medical problems, depression, social isolation and deepening poverty. With properly trained surgeons, appropriately equipped facilities and the necessary aftercare, the treatment of uncomplicated obstetric fistula has a 90% success rate.

“As strong advocates for women’s access to quality health care services, we at Zonta International want to see the end of obstetric fistula, a requirement to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” said Zonta International President Sharon Langenbeck.

From 2008 to 2018, Zonta International contributed more than US$3.5 million to the UNFPA’s Liberia Fistula Project. With Zonta’s support, more than 1,500 women and girls benefited from surgical treatment and 384 of those treated completed the rehabilitation program and were reintegrated into their communities.

Our international service projects are supporting the health and education of young women and girls, and childbirth injuries like obstetric fistula can be avoided by delaying the age of first pregnancy, ending harmful traditional practices and having timely access to obstetric care. Zonta’s support of the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage is protecting the rights of millions of vulnerable girls in 12 countries in Africa and Asia, working to eliminate child marriage, decrease school dropouts and reduce teenage pregnancy rates. In Madagascar, UNICEF’s Let Us Learn program, supported by Zonta International since 2016, is educating girls and providing them with reproductive health and life skills. And in Peru, Zonta is partnering with UNICEF USA to guarantee the rights of indigenous and rural adolescents, including by preventing pregnancy and improving their access to quality health care.

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting preventive measures in developing countries where obstetric fistula still exists, meaning more women and girls are at risk of obstetric fistula. Additionally, fistula repairs have been largely suspended as they are considered non-essential and many hospitals have diverted resources to care for COVID-19 patients.

On the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, Zonta International calls on the global community to raise awareness of this tragic injury and intensify actions to end the practice. To contribute to the projects mentioned above, visit zonta.org/donate and direct your gift to the International Service Fund.

23 MAY 2021