The United Nations celebrates May 23 as the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, a serious medical condition, which affects around 20 lakh women in developing countries, with around one lakh new cases added every year.

According to Gynaecologists, it is a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum caused by prolonged, obstructed labour without treatment. The condition typically leaves women incontinent, and as a result they are often shunned by their communities.

Sufferers often endure depression, social isolation and deepening poverty. Many women live with the condition for years or even decades, because they cannot afford to obtain treatment.

An estimated two million women in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab region, Latin America and the Caribbean are living with this injury.

Most fistulae occur among women living in poverty in cultures where a woman’s status and self-esteem may depend almost entirely on her marriage and ability to bear children. Yet, fistula is almost entirely preventable.

Obstetric fistula can be prevented and in most cases treated. Reconstructive surgery with a trained, expert fistula surgeon can repair the injury, with success rates as high as 90 per cent for less complex cases.

The condition is largely preventable, which can be avoided by delaying the age of first pregnancy, cessation of harmful traditional practices and timely access to obstetric care.

According to a UN statement, prevention and treatment of obstetric fistula contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3, which is ensuring healthy lives; in this case, improving maternal health.

In 2003, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and its partners launched the global campaign to end Fistula and restore the health of those affected by the condition. In 2012, the UN announced that it would observe International Day to End Obstetric Fistula on May 23 each year, starting in 2013.

Since it’s occurrence is extremely rare in the developed world, it is considered a disease of poverty, the statement added.

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