KARACHI: Health experts at a press conference held on Thursday highlighted the plight of thousands of Pakistani women suffering in silence due to obstetric fistula, calling for greater awareness and government support for treatment.

The briefing was organised in connection with the International Day to End Fistula being observed this year with the theme ‘Breaking the Cycle - Preventing Fistula Worldwide’.

Referring to the global data, Dr Sajjad Ahmed Siddiqui said that obstetric fistula caused suffering and isolation to at least two million poor and marginalised women and girls worldwide.

“Recognising the gravity of the challenge, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Fistula Foundation celebrates this day on May 23 every year to draw attention of governments and civil society to the devastating childbirth injury.”

According to Siddiqui, obstetric fistula is a neglected subject in developing countries, especially Pakistan.

“It’s devastating for women who experience it and usually fatal to babies as 90 per cent of the cases end in stillbirth. But we must know that fistula isn’t only treatable but preventable,” he said, adding that 3000 to 5,000 women in Pakistan lived with fistula.

Senior gynaecologist Dr Shaheen Zafar emphasised the need for collective efforts to address the issue of iatrogenic fistula (an injury caused by a healthcare provider during a procedure) that had risen in Pakistan.

“Let us build the momentum for ending maternal mortality and morbidity in 2030, a goal set by the UN. We all believe that it is also possible in Pakistan, only if the government shows its commitment,” she said.

The speakers explained that fistula could be prevented through timely maternity care, including skilled birth attendance, midwifery care and emergency obstetric care.

“Change starts with the community empowerment and participation. Ensuring access to safe holistic fistula treatment, including surgical repair as well as social reintegration, is important to eliminate it,” said Dr Sana Ashfaq, a fistula surgeon at Koohi Goth Hospital.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2024

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