14 March 2005
Doctors from the United States and Britain have volunteered to surgically treat more than 500 Nigerian women living with a devastating pregnancy-related injury known as fistula. The United Nations-coordinated project is part of global campaign to eradicate the disorder.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) says fistula has been stamped-out in western countries because of the availability of cesarean sections. But the disorder remains one of the most severe childbirth injuries in Asia and Africa with as many as 100,000 new cases each year. UNFPA says a campaign to address the issue is under way in 30 countries, including Senegal, Uganda, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
Sarah Craven, the head of UNFPA in Washington, says fistula's impact is both physically and psychologically damaging.
"Obstetric fistula is a preventable childbirth injury that occurs when a woman endures prolonged, obstructed labor without medical intervention. Often the baby dies, and the woman is left with chronic incontinence," she explained.
Fistula victims can also suffer nerve damage and infertility, and are often abandoned by their husbands and socially ostracized.