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Major Milestone Reached in Global Maternal Health
Date:3/26/2009

10,000 Women with Fistula Receive Life-Changing Surgery

WASHINGTON, March 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and EngenderHealth announced today that 10,000 women have received surgery for fistula with U.S. support since 2005. Fistula, a devastating vaginal injury affecting millions of women in developing countries, can be surgically repaired, but most of those with the condition lack access to a skilled surgeon or health center, making treatment out of reach.

"Today, the United States has achieved a major milestone in improving global maternal health -- giving 10,000 women hope for a better life. None of this would have been possible without the dedication of the local medical teams, government officials, international partners, and the support of the American people," said Gloria Steele, acting assistant administrator in USAID's Bureau for Global Health. "But our work is just beginning."

Four years ago, USAID launched a global effort to both treat and prevent fistula. To date, through initiatives such as the Fistula Care project, and in collaboration with local governments, regional healthcare organizations and faith based organizations, medical teams in 12 countries and 25 health facilities across Africa and Asia have been trained to provide surgery for fistula -- which can be repaired in up to 90 percent of cases.

Fistula is an injury caused by prolonged, obstructed labor that can occur when the head of the baby cannot pass safely through the mother's birth canal. The baby often dies and the mother is left with an abnormal opening in the birth canal and chronic incontinence. If left untreated, fistula can lead to skin ulcerations and infections, kidney disease, social isolation, and even death.

Fistula is almost entirely preventable. Making voluntary family planning available to all could reduce maternal disabil
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SOURCE U.S. Agency for International Development
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