Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Bobby Rush (D-IL), and 10 other members of Congress introduced legislation that strategically aims to redirect attention and funding to the debilitating effects of obstetric fistula on women who live primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. The “Repairing Young Women’s Lives Around the World Act” seeks to “mandate $34 million to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) strictly to prevent, treat and renew the hopes of women suffering from obstetric fistula,” according to Congresswoman Maloney’s office. Since July 2002, the Bush Administration has withdrawn $34 million annually from the UNFPA, a major player in the fight to eradicate fistula, based on false allegations that the UNFPA participated in coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization in China.
Obstetric fistula principally affects girls ages 15-19. Approximately two million girls around the world are currently living with the condition. The UNFPA describes obstetric fistula as an injury to the pelvic organs that most often occurs when a young girl undergoes long and obstructed labor, sometimes for as long as 5 days. Often, the girl is poor and cannot reach or afford the necessary medical care, which then causes her to suffer extensive tissue damage that eventually leads to the death of the baby. Another problem associated with obstetric fistula is that the injury also causes women to lose control of their bowels and bladder unless treated appropriately.
In a policy briefing on “Obstetric Fistula and the Health of Women and Girls” held on Capitol Hill last week, a group of US policy makers, medical advisors and representatives from the UNFPA rallied together to increase awareness of fistula. Dr. Joseph K. Ruminjo—the senior medical advisor with EngenderHealth’s Maternity and Post-Abortion Care Program—stressed the importance of developing partnerships at both global and national levels. In encouraging the complete eradication of this medical condition Dr. Ruminjo said, “We should not live forever with problems that we can solve today.”
LEARN MORE about the UNFPA’s campaign to end fistula