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Bangladesh: Success treating childbirth injuries

UN official spotlights success of Bangladesh centre treating childbirth injuries

The Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was moved to tears today at a Bangladesh hospital as girls as young as 15 spoke of their abandonment and infertility due to the childbirth injury, obstetric fistula, resulting from prolonged, obstructed and medically unattended labour.

At the Fistula Centre in the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid was also heartened that successful corrective surgery offers hope for some young women, and she praised the medical staff for restoring dignity to those suffering from the condition.

More than 500 women and girls have been treated at the Centre since it was established in 2003 and 50 doctors and 36 nurses have been trained to offer treatment at other locations. Ms. Obaid, who is on a three-day visit, mainly for official talks, pledged continued UNFPA support to the Centre as part of the global Campaign to End Fistula, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Arab region.

Plans are on track to create at the Dhaka hospital a centre of excellence in fistula treatment and training, the first of its kind in South Asia. This would benefit neighbouring Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Pakistan, where tens of thousands of women suffer from the condition, UNFPA said.

In addition to treatment, the hospital in Dhaka offers rehabilitation and training in literacy, sewing and other means of generating independent incomes. Women with fistula are usually abandoned by their husbands, family and community because the condition makes them incontinent, giving rise to the judgement that they are “unclean.”

In Bangladesh, only 13 per cent of births are attended by a skilled medical worker. The average age of marriage for girls is 15 and those girls who are promised in marriage very early in life are expected to fulfil their marital duties at the age of 10 or 11, the Fund said.

The Government of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia has responded with policies and programmes to expand schooling and reproductive health services, including training birth attendants. As a result, school enrolment rates for girls are rising and maternal death rates have declined, UNFPA said.

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