The theme for 2021: Women’s rights are human rights! End fistula now!
With the pandemic raging, it is expected that 13 million more child marriages could occur by 2030 than would have otherwise. Therefore, recognizing this day to raise awareness is all the more critical in today’s time. It is in line with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and realizing the promise of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development. Both plans are oriented to fight for women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive health.
Ending obstetric fistula by 2030
2020 marked the count-down towards ending the problem of obstetric fistula by 2030, according to the last report of the Secretary-General.
Obstetric fistula is preventable; it can largely be avoided by delaying the age of first pregnancy, the cessation of harmful traditional practices, and timely access to obstetric care.
Unfortunately, the current pandemic affects all these preventive measures in developing countries where obstetric fistula still exists. More women and girls will be at risk of obstetric fistula due to overburdened health systems. In addition, fistula repairs have widely been suspended as they are deemed to be non-urgent, and hospitals have diverted resources to care for patients with COVID-19.
Besides, it is expected that 13 million more child marriages could occur by 2030 than would have otherwise. Families are more likely to marry off daughters to alleviate the perceived burden of caring for them, especially in the anticipated economic fallout of the pandemic.
Due to all these reasons, an increase in cases might occur, and new strategies will be required in the post-COVID-19 recovery period to address the expected backlog of cases.
With this possible future scenario of preventive measures in danger, now more than ever, it is essential to call on the international community to use the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula to significantly raise awareness and intensify actions towards ending obstetric fistula, as well as urging post-surgery follow-up and tracking of fistula patients.
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