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EngenderHealth Announces Key Steps to Achieve a Fistula-Free Generation

Experts call for an end to a devastating women’s health condition affecting millions

New York (May 21, 2013)—To mark the first International Day to End Obstetric Fistula on May 23, EngenderHealth recognizes the achievements to date in fistula prevention and treatment and calls for an end to this devastating women’s health condition. EngenderHealth currently leads the Fistula Care project, the largest U.S. government–funded worldwide effort to address fistula, which affects an estimated 2 million women in Africa and Asia.

Obstetric fistula is caused by obstructed labor without access to timely and skilled medical care, such as cesarean section. It almost always results in the loss of the baby and chronic, uncontrollable leakage of urine and/or feces. Women with fistula experience other health challenges, like skin ulcerations, infections, nerve damage to their legs and feet, and often malnutrition and dehydration.

“No woman, no matter where she lives, should ever have to suffer from fistula,” said Pamela W. Barnes, President and CEO of EngenderHealth. “Fistula has been rare in the United States and in Europe for more than a century. We have the solutions at hand to realize a fistula-free generation in our lifetime for women everywhere,” she added.

To achieve a fistula-free generation, we must amplify efforts to:

  • Prevent fistula from happening in the first place. Women need better access to high-quality family planning, prenatal and postnatal care, labor and delivery services, and emergency obstetric care offered by competent providers.
  • Treat the current backlog of women who are living with fistula. We need to continue to strengthen and build the capacity of local health systems and surgical teams to provide fistula surgeries. Many women have lived with this condition for decades because they are unable to access treatment.  
  • Raise community awareness. Women and families must understand the causes of fistula to reduce stigma, so that women who have been living and hiding with fistula can come forward and seek treatment.
  • Ensure fistula prevention and treatment services are well-resourced and sustainable. 

EngenderHealth’s Fistula Care project has already made significant progress toward transforming the health and lives of women living with fistula. To date, EngenderHealth and its partners have:

  • Supported more than 25,000 fistula repair surgeries;
  • Trained more than 33,000 individuals, including surgeons, nurses, and health care and community outreach workers; and
  • Partnered with international and local organizations in 14 countries in Africa and Asia to set up operating rooms, train surgical teams, deliver medical equipment, and establish policies, standards, guidelines, training tools, and monitoring systems.
“On this day, we will honor the surgeons, health care professionals, and communities who are transforming women’s health and lives,” said Karen Beattie, Director of Fistula Care. “Their dedication and the continued support from governments, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), health ministries, institutions, and local hospitals make achieving a fistula-free generation within our reach.”

More information about EngenderHealth’s work in fistula and about achieving a Fistula-Free Generation is available at www.engenderhealth.org/fistulafree

About EngenderHealth
EngenderHealth is a leading global women’s health organization that is working to ensure that every pregnancy is planned, every child is wanted, and every mother has the best chance at survival. We train health care professionals and partner with governments and communities in more than 20 countries around the world. For more information, visit www.engenderhealth.org

About Fistula Care
EngenderHealth is leading Fistula Care, a major global project to treat and prevent fistula. Funded by USAID, Fistula Care supports safe and effective services that address the complex physical, emotional, and social dimensions of this tragic problem. For more information, visit www.fistulacare.org

Press Contact:
  • Kimberly Ryan, Ogilvy Public Relations
    646-464-1553, Kimberly.Ryan@ogilvy.com
  • Kara Dress, EngenderHealth
    212-561-8463, Kdress@engenderhealth.org

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