Obstetric fistula is a preventable condition, caused by prolonged, obstructed labour. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 50,000 to 100,000 young women all over the world are affected every year and an estimated 2 million women are living with untreated fistula in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. This means that they have to live with the shame of constant incontinence along with skin infections and kidney disorders, which, if left untreated, can kill.
The RCOG is an official partner of the UNFPA’s Campaign to End Fistula. This year, in association with Johnson & Johnson, and to support the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula on 23 May, we are exhibiting the work of artist Dr Jac Saorsa – ‘Drawing out obstetric fistula: exploring the ramifications of maternal birth trauma through art’.
Dr Saorsa spent two weeks at the Comprehensive Community based Rehabilitation Tanzania (CCBRT) hospital where she met women with obstetric fistula, and the people caring for them. Her pictures are an expression of her experiences there and include portraits of the women and everyday scenes at the hospital.
The RCOG is directly involved in working with women with obstetric fistula. The College has been supporting Kitovu Mission Hospital in Uganda in the prevention and treatment of fistula since 2013, where some of the RCOG’s Fellows and Members have been involved in fistula surgery camps for many years. The Marcus Filshie Fellowship volunteering programme is supporting fistula prevention work at Kitovu and the RCOG has recently received funding from the Tropical Health Education Trust (THET) to conduct emergency obstetric training with an emphasis on fistula prevention.
Dr Alison Fiander, Clinical Lead for Global Health at the RCOG, said:
“The solutions to the problem of obstetric fistulae are complex and include strengthening of national health systems; prioritization of resources for maternal health; individual, community and healthcare professional education on fistula prevention; training in provision of fistula services; and advocacy for women’s rights in accessing skilled, timely pursuit of healthcare and subsequent intervention where necessary during childbirth. To this end the RCOG is working with Kitovu Hospital, on a project aimed at preventing fistula occurring and improving women’s health services in rural centres in the Masaka region of Uganda.
“The aim of this exhibition, ‘Drawing out Obstetric Fistula’, is to not only increase awareness and understanding of the devastating effect of obstetric fistula on the lives of women, but also celebrate the resilience, dignity and courage of these woman and the healthcare workers who support them. We are proud to be supporters of the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula.”
Dr Paul Fogarty, the RCOG’s Senior Vice President, Global Health said,
“The Campaign to End Obstetric Fistula has made remarkable progress since its launch in 2003, but the needs are great. Ending fistula demands political interventions, additional resources, and strengthened collaboration between governments, partners and the civil society.
“The RCOG is committed to raising awareness of this totally preventable condition and will continue to work towards bringing an end to obstetric fistula worldwide.”
For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email email@example.com.
Follow the RCOG’s work for International Day to End Obstetric Fistula on Storify, or follow us on Twitter @RCobsGyn and the hashtag #EndFistula.
The exhibition can be viewed on our website from 23 May.
Read our women’s health blog on obstetric fistula here.