Obstetric fistula affects approximately 2 million girls and women worldwide according to the World Health Organization with 100,000 new cases each year. It occurs particularly in developing countries and is one of the causes of maternal mortality in many countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Obstetric fistula is a pathology that occurs between urinary and genital canals due to very long and untreated labor (up to several days) during delivery. This causes holes in the vagina or rectum causing further complications like fecal or urinary incontinence, urinary infections, kidney failure and/or nerve damage.
Though obstetric fistula is not an infectious disease, a recent research paper has called for it to be included in the list of neglected tropical diseases. Edwige Ravaomanana, spokesperson for UN Population Fund, has recently told AFP that poverty and living in rural areas are the main causes for obstetric fistula. Indeed, she says that women who live in rural areas have neither physical nor financial means to gain access to modern medical facilities. Dr L Lewis of Washington University in St Louis blames the lack of skilled professionals and the lack of necessary equipment to treat surgical and obstetric issues.