May 23rd

International Day to End Obstetric Fistula -

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Every year on May 23rd, the world unites to recognize the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. This global initiative, initiated by the United Nations, was created to spotlight and address one of the most serious and life-altering injuries that can occur during childbirth - obstetric fistula. The focus is to increase understanding about this preventable injury, improve the health services given to affected women, and push towards effective prevention and treatment strategies.

This event is a call to action to transform the lives of women and girls who suffer from this condition, both in developed and underdeveloped countries.

History of International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

The observance of International Day to End Obstetric Fistula each year on May 23rd was a resolution put forward by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013. This decision came ten years after the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and its allies launched their efforts in 2003 to eradicate obstetric fistula.

Obstetric Fistula is a severe medical condition in which a hole develops in the birth canal as a result of extended, obstructed labor and a lack of proper, timely medical intervention. This condition leads to incontinence and often results in other serious health problems. Moreover, it can also result in depression, social isolation, and a cycle of deepening financial difficulties for the affected women.

Dr. Catherine Hamlin founded the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia in 1989, the only medical center committed to addressing obstetric fistulas. This contributed greatly to the global conversation about this health issue. The global initiative to eliminate Fistula was launched by UNFPA and its partners in 2003, followed by an official recognition of the International Day through a UN General Assembly resolution in 2012.

The ‘End Fistula Campaign’ focuses on significantly improving women’s and girls’ health and rights around the world. This day is marked by numerous events worldwide that stress the critical need to address this health concern. The day underscores the vital steps required to prevent and treat obstetric Fistula, such as enhanced sanitation, access to food, education (particularly for females), as well as the provision of reproductive health services and safe childbirth, and measures to reduce poverty.

While maternal mortality has been halved and childbirth complications have been reduced significantly since 2000, it is estimated that 2 million women in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab region, and Latin America and the Caribbean are still dealing with this injury. Despite these efforts, less than 20,000 women receive treatment each year. This highlights that the campaign still has a long way to go in completely eradicating this condition on a global scale.

International Day to End Obstetric Fistula Timeline

Establishment of Campaign to End Fistula

Funded by UNFPA and partners, the global Campaign to End Fistula is launched in 2003 to address and combat the problem of obstetric fistula.

First International Obstetric Fistula Working Group Meeting

UNFPA and partners convene the first International Obstetric Fistula Working Group meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

UN resolution to tackle maternal mortality and morbidity

The United Nations (UN) adopts a resolution to tackle maternal mortality and morbidity, which includes addressing obstetric fistula.

First International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

The United Nations declares May 23 as the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, to be observed annually.

Continued Efforts

Despite a reduction in cases due to improved obstetric care and surgical techniques, obstetric fistula still remains an issue in developing countries.

Ideas to Celebrate International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

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Awareness March

Organize a local march or parade to bring awareness to obstetric fistula. Use banners, posters, and slogans that explain what this condition is about and how to prevent it.

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Educational Webinar

Invite a healthcare professional to host a webinar to inform people about obstetric fistula. This can include information about the causes, treatment, and the importance of maternal care.

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Fundraising Concert

Arrange a local concert or an online music event where the proceeds will go towards hospitals or NGOs fighting obstetric fistula. Let the artist know about the cause to encourage their audience to donate.

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Free Health Checkups

Coordinate free health checkups focusing on maternal health in partnership with local hospitals or clinics. This will help identify potential cases and ensure early intervention.

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Partnership with Schools

Collaborate with schools to include a session or lecture about obstetric fistula in their health or biology classes. This can help educate young generations about the condition and instigate preventive action.

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Documentary Screening

Host a screening of a documentary or films about obstetric fistula. Following the screening, have a discussion or Q&A session with experts.

7 Interesting Facts About Obstetric Fistula


Not a modern condition

Obstetric fistula is not a modern condition. Historical records show that women have been suffering from fistulas for thousands of years.


Unseen in developed countries

Obstetric fistulas are unseen in developed countries due to quality obstetric care. In fact, many medical professionals in high-income countries are not even trained to recognize or treat the condition.


Completely preventable

Despite how widespread it is in impoverished regions, obstetric fistula is almost entirely preventable. Proper obstetric care, including access to Caesarean sections, is usually all that’s needed.


Obstetric Fistula and Child Marriage

Obstetric Fistula is more likely to happen to young girls as their bodies are not ready for childbirth. This is often a result of early or child marriages.


Surgery can repair

A simple, cost-effective surgery can usually repair the injury of Obstetric fistula. Post-surgery, most women can return to a normal life.


Social stigma

Obstetric fistula can cause a foul-smelling discharge, which often leads to social stigma and the affected women being shunned by their communities.


Sufferers are predominantly poor

The majority of women who suffer from fistula are from impoverished communities where there is also a high maternal mortality rate.

International Day to End Obstetric Fistula FAQs

Next International Day to End Obstetric Fistula Dates

Year Date Day
2023 May 23rd Tuesday
2024 May 23rd Thursday
2025 May 23rd Friday
2026 May 23rd Saturday
2027 May 23rd Sunday
What is the pattern? Every May 23rd

International Day to End Obstetric Fistula Word Search

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