NAIROBI (TrustLaw) – The first interactive global fistula map was launched on Tuesday, showing that one in 50 women receive treatment for this devastating childbirth injury which leaves women leaking urine and/or faeces uncontrollably.
At least 2 million women in developing countries live with fistula and more than 50,000 new cases occur each year, the overwhelming majority in Africa.
“We see from the map data gathered so far that treatment currently only reaches a fraction of patients annually,” said Gillian Slinger, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) coordinator of the Campaign to End Fistula.
“Documenting where treatment is available is critical to providing care, raising resources and restoring the health and dignity of women and girls living with fistula. If we know where service gaps are, we can then better steer activities forward, to get help to all those who need it.”
When a woman labours for many hours without receiving a Caesarean section, soft tissues caught between the baby’s head and the mother’s pelvic bone die, creating a hole called a fistula. The hole can occur between the mother's vagina and bladder, or between the vagina and rectum.
The majority of women never receive treatment and often end up ostracised by their families and communities.
The map shows 328 facilities where fistula treatment is available. By clicking on the map, users can see the type of facility offering care, the number of surgeons it has and the number of patients it treated in 2010.
Over half of reporting facilities treated fewer than 50 patients in 2010. Only five treated more than 500 women.
Kagando Hospital in Uganda carried out the largest number of operations in 2010, with 601 women receiving treatment.
Surprisingly, one of the largest facilities is in Borama in Somaliland, where a government hospital has four onsite fistula surgeons and 45 beds dedicated to fistula patients. It performed 225 repair surgeries in 2010.
The Global Fistula Map is a joint project by Direct Relief International, the Fistula Foundation and UNFPA, with data also contributed by EngenderHealth, Women and Health Alliance International, and the International Society of Obstetric Fistula Surgeons.