COTE D’IVOIRE – The Government of Côte d’Ivoire has hosted an international conference focused on Obstetric fistula (OF) elimination under the theme of ‘South-South and triangular partnership to eliminate fistula by 2030’.

The country, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Government of South Korea through its International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), organized the conference that took place in Abidjan from 13th September to 15th September 2022.

Chaired by Her Excellency Mrs. Dominique Ouattara, First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire, this event aims to strengthen the mobilization of domestic resources and partners to eliminate obstetric fistula in West and Central Africa by 2030,” UNFPA said in a press release.

The First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire stressed that it is time to take action and operationalize initiatives to mobilize resources for investment in the prevention, repair and reintegration of fistula survivors in a bid to accelerate interventions to eliminate obstetric fistula by 2030.

The conference brought together government representatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries including Mauritania and Chad, bilateral and multilateral donors, United Nations (UN) agencies, scientific experts, the private sector, and civil society.

In addition, the event will further joint efforts in the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of women living with obstetric fistula involving helping the affected women to heal and to regain their dignity while supporting the strengthening of the health system.

Ensuring skilled attendance at delivery, providing emergency obstetric care to women and girls who experience complications at delivery, and strengthening domestic and external resource mobilization would make fistula as rare in developing countries as it is today in developed countries,” the agency said.

UNFPA announced that the first phase of this event featured the High-Level Dialogue that lead to the launch of the Abidjan Declaration for the Elimination of Obstetric Fistula in West and Central Africa by 2030.

The agency highlighted that the Abidjan Declaration will serve as the basis for future actions on eliminating obstetric fistula in West and Central Africa.

Furthermore, the second phase of the conference was a symposium that took stock of obstetric fistula in Africa, training, and strategies to strengthen efforts to eliminate obstetric fistula.

According to the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, obstetric fistula is one of the most serious and dangerous injuries that can occur during childbirth in the absence of prompt and quality obstetric care.

The agency observed that an estimated 600,000 to 1,000,000 women and girls are living with obstetric fistula in West and Central Africa, noting that it is a perforation between the vagina and the bladder and/or rectum, caused by prolonged labor.

In Côte d’Ivoire, a survey conducted in 2020 estimated the number of women and girls living with fistula at 44,602 with 250 new cases recorded each year.

The country has strengthened its achievements in the promotion of women and gender equality. The issue of obstetric fistula, in addition to being a public health problem, is also a question of human rights in general and women’s rights in particular.

Pierre Dimba, Minister of Health, Public Hygiene and Universal Health Coverage of Côte d’Ivoire emphasized that maternal and child health is a priority of the President of the Republic, His Excellency Alassane Ouattara.

He observed that women living with obstetric fistula no longer have to hide because the disease is treated free of charge at the hospital.

Moreover, the international surgical mission that allowed the operation of nearly 180 women is a strong signal that South-South and triangular cooperation is a reality in our countries,” he said.

For her part, the Minister of Women, Family and Children of Côte d’Ivoire Nasseneba Touré, welcomed the synergies of action for the restoration of the dignity of women living with obstetric fistula.

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