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Clearing the Backlog: Empowering Women and Healing Lives – Ghana’s Fight Against Obstetric Fistula

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By Antoinette Abbah

The opportunity to bring new life into the world is a joy for every woman. But for some, it ends in complications which make them objects of laughter, discrimination, and shame. They end up with an obstetric fistula, a painful consequence of protracted, obstructed labour that causes urine, faeces, or both to flow from the vaginal opening. In Ghana, the condition mostly affects marginalised, impoverished, and uneducated women in rural areas. Many of them do not seek treatment, either because they are unaware fistulas can be repaired or because they cannot afford the procedure. The UNFPA estimates that the typical cost of fistula treatment, including surgery and post-operative care, is more than $700, which the patients cannot afford. A recent survey by the Ghana Health Service estimated that 1,300 new cases are recorded annually, with 1.6 to 1.8 cases occurring per 1,000 births. GBC News’ Antoinette Abbah, in this special report on International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, takes us through the journeys of three women living with the condition in pain and silence.

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