CBM, the international disability charity, was delighted to be visited today by Cambridgeshire Euro MP and President of the All-Party Disability Group in the European Parliament, Mr Richard Howitt MEP. Mr Howitt has long been a campaigner for human rights as Vice Chair of the Human Rights Sub Committee, a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Policy and as the Labour European Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs.
Mr Howitt launched the CBM Fistula campaign, which is being launched in conjunction with this week's International Women's Day, and aims to raise awareness of Fistula.
Fistula is a subject that is often shied away from, but CBM believes that it has been hidden for too long. Fistula leaves women physically and emotionally traumatised and socially excluded. The World Health Organization (WHO) has described fistula as "the single most dramatic aftermath of neglected childbirth."
In some areas, a high percentage of fistulae occur during the first pregnancy and, in many cases, result in a stillbirth. In a society where childbearing is so highly valued this gravely affects the woman's future. The number of women who have this debilitating condition is in the millions. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1.5 million need surgery in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa alone. They are often ostracised from their families and their communities, but a simple operation will allow them to return to their loved ones and allow them to start to live their lives again. The surgery required only takes 30 minutes and recovery time is 2 weeks.
the single most dramatic aftermath of neglected childbirth." - The World Health Organization (WHO)
In some cases, women who have had Fistula also suffer from severe nerve damage that may require prolonged physical therapy. Unfortunately, for some women, the damage is beyond repair and continual care is required. It is not just the physical damage that these women have to cope with, but the circumstances that have surrounded it will often have long-term negative emotional effects. CBM’s aim is to help as many women as possible to regain their dignity, something that everyone is entitled to.
Last year, CBM conducted 739 fistula surgeries around the world, but so many more women still need our help.