Global Resources

Risk and Resilience: Obstetric Fistula in Tanzania

Publisher: EngenderHealth
Publication Date: Nov 2006
Obstetric fistula is a hole that forms between the bladder and the vagina or between the rectum and the vagina during prolonged and obstructed child labour. Approximately two million girls and women are estimated to be living with fistula worldwide, yet fistula remains one of the most neglected issues in women's health and rights. It can cause women to lose their babies and leaves them having to live with the humiliation of leaking urine and/or faeces. Fistula also inhibits women's ability to work or interact with communities, driving them further into poverty and often exacerbating both their economic and social vulnerability. The financial burden of paying for treatment and transport to hospitals, together with the potential loss of income when women are unable to work, also places significant strains on the families of girls and women living with fistula. This report describes the findings of a study in Tanzania to understand the many dimensions of fistula and its related social vulnerability through the experiences and views of girls and women living with the condition, as well as their families and the health workers who care for them. The study also explores participants' recommendations on locally appropriate solutions to prevent and manage fistula. Recommendations include:

?Policies and programmes addressing fistula need to expand beyond currently held views that fistula largely affects young girls. Public education and interventions to mitigate the risks of fistula must address the full reproductive life-cycle of girls and women;
?Girls and women, particularly in rural areas, urgently need access to emergency obstetric care provided by trained health care workers. The financial and logistical barriers to service must be eliminated.