On the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, ARTICLE 19 has highlighted the key role played by access to information in the fight against the condition.
“Access to information should be an entrance door to win the battle against obstetrical fistula” said Fatou Jagne Senghore, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Senegal. “Nowadays obstetrical fistula is almost totally preventable and treatable and people should know it,” she added.
The latest survey undertaken by ARTICLE 19 in the region of Tambacounda shows that despite its presence in the region, local communities do not have information about how to prevent or how to treat obstetrical fistula. Lack of information about medical services is a real issue in Tambacounda and unfortunately hundreds of women in this region continue to suffer the consequences of obstetrical fistula.
The results are clear: from the 400 people interviewed 87.3 % of men and 88.3 % of women have never heard of obstetrical fistula. More than three quarters of the population do not know the symptoms of this medical condition, and just 15% know that in Senegal the chirurgical reparation treatment is free.
To eradicate obstetric fistula it is essential that people know beforehand how it can be prevented and treated.
In Senegal, there are services to treat women with obstetrical fistula, but it is not enough that these services are in place. Information about how to access these services should be accessible to the whole population, including remote rural communities.
Promoting information and making it available to citizens should be a priority for Senegalese health authorities. ARTICLE 19 welcomes and supports the decision of the Senegalese government to recruit 1000 health employees, including 500 midwifes, with the purpose of fighting against maternal mortality. ARTICLE 19 reminds Senegalese authorities that without including access to information as a key pillar of their health policies, any improvement in maternal health will be difficult.
ARTICLE 19 urges the Senegalese government:
– To adopt an access to information law key to assessing public information on public services;
– To improve the internal mechanisms within the heath structure in order to make sure that women’s health is effectively monitored and that they have access to information regarding reproductive health
Obstetrical fistula is an injury in the women’s bladder or rectum caused by a long and difficult or long birth delivery. With this injury women lose control of their bladder or bowels, or both, and are often marginalized and isolated.
This injury has different causes, among them long delivery births with no medical attention, early marriages and pregnancies as well as female genital mutilation.
Remote and rural areas, where access to medical care is difficult and where traditional cultural practices continue to be imposed on young girls and women are the zones most affected.
At present more than 2 million women in the world are affected by this injury. In Senegal there are no official statistics, but official sources estimate that each year there are 400 new cases. Most of the cases are concentrated in the regions of Tambacounda, Kolda, Matam and Ziguinchor.