By Akhtar M. Nikzad-KABUL: Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), the Afghan Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the United Nations Population Fund vowed to expand capacity to treat women with obstetric fistula.
Addressing a cermoney on the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, the minister of public health Firozuddin Feroz on Wednesday said that by 2019 those women and girls who are suffering from obstetric fistula would have access to “care, treatment and services” in all major hospitals.
He said that currently only Malalai Maternity Hospital at the capital city has the facility to treat women and girls suffering from obstetric fistula. “New fistula wards will be established in the regional hospitals to expand reproductive health services to women and adolescent girls. Women and girls suffering from obstetric fistula will have access to professional doctors and surgeons. Free treatment, transportation and accomodation will be provided to the patients,” the minister promised.
Obstetric fistula is one of the most serious injuries that can occur during childbirth.
According to a survey conducted in 2011 by MoPH in six provinces of Afghanistan, four women in 1,000 suffer from fistula during pregnancy. Twenty-five per cent of them were younger than 16 when they married. Globally, it is estimated that at least 50,000 new fistula cases occur each year, while fewer than 20,000 women and adolescent girls receive treatment annually.
The UNFPA’s representative for Afghanistan, Dr Annette Sachs Robertson, said that to end fistula, universal access to quality reproductive health services should be ensured. She said that early marriages had to be avoided.
She said the UNFPA has been providing support to the MoPH in treating obstetric fistula since 2007, through the establishment of Malalai Maternity Hospital Obstetric Fistula Ward, where more than 930 women and adolescent girls have been treated.