‘Covid-19 pandemic may lead to greater number of fistula cases’

Updated 25 May 2020

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According to experts, obstetric is one of the most serious injuries of childbearing; a tear in the birth canal caused by prolonged, obstructed labour in the absence of timely and adequate medical care. — Reuters/File
According to experts, obstetric is one of the most serious injuries of childbearing; a tear in the birth canal caused by prolonged, obstructed labour in the absence of timely and adequate medical care. — Reuters/File

KARACHI: The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic will compromise the care of young pregnant population and there are chances that they will suffer from fistula and will not be able to get treatment because of non-existing support for these patients.

These concerns were shared by experts on International Day to End Fistula observed every year on May 23.

The theme of this year is ‘End gender inequality, end health inequalities, end fistula now’.

“These are valid concerns. The UNFPA estimates that Covid-19 will disrupt efforts to end child marriage, potentially resulting in an additional 13 million child marriages taking place between 2020 and 2030 that could otherwise have been averted translating into higher probability of fistula cases across the world,” said president of the Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health (PNFWH) Dr Shershah Syed.

The forum is providing fistula repair services at Koohi Goth Women’s Hospital, nine government-run centres across the country in collaboration with federal and provincial health ministries as well as in places like Gilgit, Skardu, Kashmir, Tharparkar and Turbat through surgical camps.

Fistula cases, according to Dr Syed, couldn’t end unless the government provided basic and primary healthcare in rural areas and city slums and launched a programme to produce one hundred thousand skilled midwives to save mothers from mortality and morbidity.

According to experts, obstetric is one of the most serious injuries of childbearing; a tear in the birth canal caused by prolonged, obstructed labour in the absence of timely and adequate medical care.

It leaves women leaking urine, faeces or both, and often leads to chronic medical problems, depression, social isolation and deepening poverty.

However, obstetric and rectovaginal fistula are preventable and, in most cases, can be repaired surgically. In Pakistan the true prevalence of fistula is unknown, but an estimated 5,000 cases are recorded every year.

Unfortunately, only 10 per cent of these women undergo corrective surgery annually. The rest are forced to live a difficult existence, shunned by their families.

“We need to accelerate efforts if we are to achieve our global ambition of ending fistula by 2030, the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals. Towards that end, the response to the Covid-19 pandemic must ensure the delivery of essential reproductive health services, including midwifery services and emergency obstetric care,” stated Lina Mousa, UNFPA representative in Pakistan, in a message.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2020