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RCOG release: The RCOG aims to keep fistula on the global health agenda and work to eradicate the preventable condition

News 23 May 2014

Obstetric fistula, caused by prolonged labour and often resulting in the death of the baby and leaving the mother incontinent, is almost entirely preventable and yet it affects around 2 million women and girls worldwide. The RCOG is today supporting the UNFPA International Day to End Obstetric Fistula and has launched the RCOG/Marcus Filshie Fellowship to support fistula services at Kitovu Hospital, Masaka region in Uganda.

The new RCOG/Marcus Filshie Fellowship will support the delivery of obstetric and gynaecological services at Kitovu Mission Hospital in Uganda, as well as the fistula service. Currently the fistula service comprises 4 camps per year of two weeks duration each, staffed by experienced overseas surgeons, including fellows and members of the RCOG. The level of care given at Kitovu has led to women travelling from Kenya and Rwanda to seek treatment there.

The RCOG has joined forces with the Federation of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians (FIGO) to train Kitovu based obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Florence Nalubega, in fistula repair. This will be the first step in helping the hospital in their aim to deliver a continuous fistula service and training local doctors will enable more women to be treated.

Moreover, to raise awareness of this almost entirely preventable condition the RCOG is releasing a new film showcasing the work at Kitovu and featuring stories of the women whose lives have been turned around since their treatment.

Professor Alison Fiander, Chair of the RCOG’s Global Health Policy Advisory Committee and Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Cardiff University, said:

“Obstetric fistula is a hole that develops between the bladder or bowel and the birth canal when the baby becomes stuck during obstructed labour. In nearly all cases, without access to prompt medical intervention, it results in the death of the baby and leaves the woman suffering from severe health problems and incontinent of urine or faeces or both.

“Life is appalling for women with fistula; they are wet all the time, they smell, they are stigmatised, isolated and rejected by society.

“Access to a skilled birth attendant and timely emergency obstetric care can prevent these injuries. Once they have occurred many can be repaired surgically, totally transforming a women’s life.

“The new Fellowship is a great opportunity to get involved and help support fistula work, both in terms of prevention and surgical repair.”

Dr Paul Fogarty, RCOG Senior Vice President, Global Health, added:

“The RCOG is committed to raising awareness of this totally preventable condition and to work towards bringing an end to obstetric fistula worldwide.

“Last year, the RCOG took a huge leap forward in its global health focus with the launch of the RCOG Global Health Strategy, currently being implemented. Global health is a significant priority for our College and we are very proud to be raising awareness of fistula, a condition eradicated in most industrialised countries but still blighting thousands of women unnecessarily.”

Visit our dedicated page on our website to watch our new video and read stories shared by women who have courageously given their stories to us from around the world: www.rcog.org.uk/fistula

Join the global conversation on Twitter @RCObsGyn #EndFistula