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Obstetric Fistula

Volume 450: debated on Monday 16 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps are being taken by his Department to (a) reduce the incidence of and (b) repair the effects of obstetric fistula in the developing world. (92937)

The cornerstone of preventing obstetric fistula is prompt access to good quality health care when needed. DFID is committed to helping countries expand access to health care, including family planning, safe abortion services, antenatal and obstetric services, all of which are vital for preventing fistula. Meeting the existing demand for family planning services would reduce maternal deaths and injuries by over 20 per cent. DFID is the only major bilateral donor to have a strategy focused on reducing maternal mortality. Copies of the first progress report on the strategy can be found in the Library of the House.

The effects of fistula can be devastating for the lives of girls and women, whose babies often die. Rendered incontinent they are often rejected by their husbands, thrown out of their homes and excluded from community life. DFID is therefore committed to promoting the rights of girls and women, particularly their sexual and reproductive rights, and to the elimination of harmful practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation, which can significantly increase the risk of fistula.

DFID targets some funding through NGOs to tackle obstetric fistula. For example, DFID has provided a grant of £558,000 to the EngenderHealth and Women’s Dignity Project to combat obstetric fistula in Tanzania and Uganda, and £140,000 to the Obstetric Fistulae in Africa Project. To compliment our country level support, DFID channels funds through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). DFID provides £20 million a year core funding and in 2004 provided £10 million specifically for reproductive health supplies. DFID also provides an annual contribution of £19 million to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and £12.5 million to the World Health Organisation (WHO), whose programmes support work on women’s empowerment, maternal and reproductive health.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions he has had about obstetric fistula. (92938)

On 27 June 2006 the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched a high profile media campaign on obstetric fistula in the UK. DFID was engaged in discussions with UNFPA regarding the overall campaign and the UK was represented at the campaign launch press conference by Baroness Amos. UNFPA’s choice of the UK for the campaign was in recognition of the political commitment of the UK to addressing the Millennium Development Goal 5: ‘Improve maternal health’.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact of efforts to reduce the incidence and impact of obstetric fistula. (92939)

DFID draws on the analysis of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) for data regarding obstetric fistula and does not conduct its own assessments. WHO estimates that more than two million women and girls are living with fistula in developing countries, with 50,000 to 100,000 new cases occurring each year. However, these figures are based on the number of women seeking treatment and are likely to be gross underestimates. The full extent of the problem has never been mapped and reliable data on obstetric fistula is scarce. In 2004 UNFPA and EngenderHealth conducted a groundbreaking needs assessment study in nine African countries to provide the basis of our understanding on obstetric fistula in sub-Saharan Africa.