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Each year some 50,000-100,000 women sustain an obstetric fistula in the act of trying to bring forth new life. It is the most devastating of all pregnancy-related disabilities and Nigeria accounts for 40% of fistula cases worldwide.

Approximately 80-95% of the causes of Obstetric fistula occurs when a young woman experiences prolonged obstructed labour and has no access to a Caesarean section. The obstruction can occur because the woman’s pelvis is too small, the baby’s head is too big, or the baby is badly positioned. She can be in labour for five days or more without medical help. The baby often dies and If the mother survives, she is left with extensive tissue damage to her birth canal.

The results are life shattering. She is unable to control the flow of her urine or faeces. Nerve damage to her legs also makes it difficult to walk. Rather than being comforted for the loss of her child, she is often rejected by her husband, shunned by her community and left to live a life of shame and isolation. If she remains untreated she might die pre-maturely from an infection or failed kidney.

“The time has come to put an end to Obstetric fistula and address the circumstances that perpetuate it, including poverty, lack of access to health care, child marriage and early childbearing” – Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, UNFPA

Obstetric Fistula is a preventable and treatable condition, one that no woman should have to endure. Yet more than 400, 000 women remain untreated in Nigeria. Annually, UNFPA repairs about 3, 000 fistula cases but a lot more still needs to be done.