KARACHI- A representative of Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan’s (SOGP), Dr Haleema Yasmeen, has said that an estimated 3500 to 5000 new fistula cases are reported each year in Pakistan, whereas around two million women are living with obstetric fistula in the world.
She was speaking at a news conference at Karachi Press Club on the eve of “International Day to End Obstetric Fistula” observed worldwide on May 23.
Others who spoke on the occasion included Dr Saboohi Mehdi of Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health (PNFWH), Pakistan Medical Association’s (PMA-Central) secretary-general Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, PMA Karachi chapter’s general secretary Dr Qazi Wasiq, PNFWH’s provincial officer Dr Shruti and Dr Sajjad Ahmad Siddiqui.
Apprising about the obstetric fistula cases, Dr Yasmeen said that fistula is a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged, obstructed labour due to the lack of timely and adequate medical care. In such cases, the baby is either stillborn or dies within the first week of life and the woman suffers a devastating injury – a fistula – that renders her incontinent.
Moreover, many women and girls with fistula are shunned by their families and communities, deepening their poverty and magnifying their sufferings, Dr Yasmeen deplored.
She said most of the women suffered fistula disease during pregnancy due to unskilled birth attendants. She said major factors of this high fistula cases are social and cultural issues like early marriages, poverty, lack of education, and poor health infrastructure.
PMA Karachi chapter general secretary Dr Qazi Wasiq said that obstetric fistula is preventable in most cases. He said a significant number of women suffer isolation and embarrassment because of obstetric fistula which is undeniably one of the most telling examples of inequitable access to maternal health care.
Dr Saboohi Mehdi said that obstetric fistula has been virtually eliminated in industrialized nations as it is preventable and in most cases can be surgically repaired.
At the outset, she underscored the need for providing training to midwives so that they could save women from obstetric fistula.
The doctors on this occasion informed newsmen that Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health is providing surgical treatment across the country.
The PNFWH was also providing training to doctors and mid-level healthcare providers, besides raising awareness on social issues, they added.