The Government of the Republic of Zambia renews its commitment to end Obstetric Fistula by 2030... Launches National Obstetric Fistula Strategic Plan 2022-2026
The Government of the Republic of Zambia has renewed its commitment to end Obstetric Fistula as a public health problem in the country by the year 2030. On May 23, 2023, Zambia commemorated the International Day for Elimination of Obstetric Fistula (IDEOF) under the theme, “20 Years on - Progress but not enough! Act Now to End Fistula by 2030.” It was at the same event that the Ministry of Health officially launched the National Obstetric Fistula Strategic Plan for the period 2022 to 2026.
The launch was conducted in Solwezi district during the Safe Motherhood Week campaign which is going on from 22 to 26 May 2023 under the theme “Community Empowerment, a springboard to Improving Maternal and Child Health”.
In his official statement to launch both the Safe Motherhood Week and the International Day for Elimination of Obstetric Fistula, the Provincial Minister for Northwestern Province, Col. Grandson Katambi acknowledged the presence of traditional leaders and emphasized the importance of community empowerment and participation in ensuring improved utilization of available services and ensuring that the most vulnerable in rural areas are reached.
He noted that although Maternal Mortality had reduced from 991 per 1000 live births in 2007 to 278 per 1000 live births in 2018, there was need to accelerate efforts to meet the SDG target of 70 per 1000 live births in 2030.
“There is need to ensure Universal Health Coverage for comprehensive reproductive, maternal, and newborn health care. Timely access to high quality obstetric emergency services, ensuring availability of trained professionals at the time of birth and universal access to family planning services, will help us save many lives” Col. Katambi said.
The vision of the Obstetric Fistula Strategic Plan is to see Zambia become a country free of obstetric Fistula with the goal to end it by the year 2030.
The Fistula Foundation Country Director, Mrs. Bwalya Chomba stated that no woman should lead a life of misery because of giving life. Mrs. Chomba added that since 2017, when her organization launched the Obstetric Fistula services, more than 1,700 surgeries have been conducted, and a first ever dedicated ward commissioned at Mansa General Hospital.
“We are working with the Ministry of Health to launch a new countrywide treatment network to build Zambia’s long-term capacity for fistula care and to serve as a path forward to ending fistula within a generation,” she said.
And speaking on behalf of the UNFPA Country Representative, Ms Jennipher Mijere said that the Safe Motherhood Week and the IDEOF were a call to realize the fundamental human rights of all women and girls across the country, with a special focus on those most left behind, excluded and shunned by society. She also emphasized on the importance of ensuring increased availability of data on fistula including its integration in health management information and routine surveillance systems if we are to attain the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
“We call for renewed political commitment, additional resources, and investments, and strengthened collaboration between Government, communities, development partners, and the private sector,” Ms Mijere added.
As part of our continued support to the Ministry of Health and leading up to the commemoration of IDEOF and the Safe Motherhood Week, WHO Zambia provided technical support towards planning, training and mentorship of members of the Safe Motherhood Action Groups at Urban Clinic and presented baby hampers to selected vulnerable expectant mothers.
As WHO, we are committed to supporting interventions that will improve the health service delivery and care towards those affected by obstetric fistula so we can save and protect the lives of women and newborns – living no one behind.
During the Safe Motherhood Week activities are heightened to increase awareness and utilization of health services. The activities include provision of short- and long-term family planning services, screening for breast and cervical cancer, rapid syphilis testing, antenatal and postnatal care, EmONc mentorship, training and mentorship of Safe Motherhood Action Groups, advocacy meetings with Traditional Leaders, HIV testing services, sensitization on Sexual Gender Based violence, fistula prevention messages and treatment and adolescent health services.
According to the World Health Organization, each year between 50 000 to 100 000 women worldwide are affected by obstetric fistula. 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. Every day in 2020, almost 800 women died from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.