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International Day to End Obstetric Fistula; 23rd May, 2022

Global theme: End Fistula Now: Invest in Quality Healthcare, Empower Communities!"

22nd May, 2022: Millions of women around the world suffer in silence with obstetric fistula, many of them in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is an injury that causes faecal and/or urinary incontinence. It occurs when a hole develops between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum due to unattended prolonged, obstructed labour, which in turn is one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in developing countries. Survivors with this condition are often ostracised by loved ones and from their communities; deprived of their dignity, self-respect and self-pride; and forced to live with their injury in shame, depression and poverty for years.

For the past twelve years, BAFROW, in partnership with the International Development Bank (IDB), has been complementing national efforts to prevent and end this injury through diverse awareness and sensitization activities. At the same time, it has been conducting surgeries on injured women and providing those who have been repaired with skills and knowledge that would enable them to successfully return to their respective communities with a regained sense of dignity and self-respect.

“The goal to end Obstetric fistula by 2030 in The Gambia will be challenging given the choice that most injured women make to remain silent about their condition rather than seek help and face stigmatization, among other factors. This, sadly, renders them invisible for our surgical, rehabilitation and reintegration services,” said Ms Fatou Waggeh, the Director of BAFROW.

Yet, ending obstetric fistula is achievable with increased and persistent awareness creation activities about women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, adequate financial resources, trained health service providers, and improved and sustained emergency obstetric and neonatal care services at all major and secondary, state and privately own health facilities in the country.

“Thanks to contributions from IDB, the focus of our prevention strategy this year at BAFROW is to scale up our Well Woman Clinic at Mandinaba in West Coast Region to increase the number of women and girls reached for early detection of pregnancy related complications and timely intervention,” said Sister Yassin Sompo Ceesay, Deputy Director of BAFROW.

Recognising the huge data gap in obstetric fistula in the country, another priority for BAFROW this year, also supported by the IDB, is to set up a database that will capture available and subsequent data on survivors and antenatal patients registered at its base and outreach clinics. It is hoped that the reports generated would contribute to informing decision making within the context of fistula prevention services at the level of BAFROW and its patients and in helping national stakeholders map out a coordinated and sustainable way forward to end obstetric fistula in The Gambia. These activities will be supported by on-going sensitization of community members conducted by the BAFROW Fistula Support Groups.

BAFROW will take advantage of this year’s International Day to End Obstetric Fistula to increase both media and community-based awareness. Messages will also target policy and decision makers with emphasis on the urgent need for functional, sustainable, and accessible emergency obstetric and neonatal care at national health facilities across the country; the importance of scaling up best practices to address social and cultural practices that contribute to obstetric fistulas including female genital mutilation and teenage pregnancy; and the long-term advantages of institutionalizing sexual and reproductive health subjects in both formal and non-formal education.  

“We will continue to do our part in supporting the Government of The Gambia to accelerate progress in ensuring an obstetric fistula-free country for subsequent generations of women and girls,” concluded Miss Waggeh. 

Name: Obstetric Fistula Awareness
Duration: 1 min 22 secs 

Name: Regaining Women’s Dignity –
BAFROW’s comprehensive program to end obstetric fistula
Duration: 8 mins 59 secs