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Fear, stigma prevent pregnant women from accessing obstetric care – UNFPA



The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday says fear, poor information and stigma related to COVID-19 pandemic has denied some pregnant women access to obstetric care in Kaduna State.

Ms. Mariana Darboe, UNFPA Programme Coordinator and Decentralized Officer (Northern Nigeria) made the assertion in Zaria.
Darboe spoke at an event to commemorate the 2021 International Day to End Fistula.

According to her, COVID-19 has taken a huge global toll on maternal and newborn health.

Darboe stated that women and girls in many countries, including Nigeria, do not benefit from a universal human right to safe healthcare and basic social protections.

She also said that it was one of the purest forms of a disease of poverty.

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Darboe explained that the crisis was compounding the economic, social and logistical barriers facing women and girls in accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare services, even, where services were available and accessible.

She said that the absence of timely medical treatment had led to a dramatic increase in obstetric fistula, a serious childbirth injury resulting from prolonged, obstructed labor,

The programme coordinator added that poor women and girls in rural areas were, especially at risk.

According to her, the disproportionate incidence of this devastating and sometimes life-threatening condition among the poor reflects the socioeconomic inequities and unequal right to health, including sexual and reproductive health.

“Even, in the best of times, the poor and vulnerable are more likely to lack access to skilled health personnel with child marriage and early child bearing remained among other contributing factors.

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“While fistula has been virtually eliminated in developed nations, hundreds of thousands of women and girls in the developing world still live with this debilitating condition.”

She said that as the leader of the global campaign to end fistula, UNFPA provided funding and support for fistula prevention, treatment and social reintegration programme.

“Therefore, response to COVID-19 pandemic must ensure the delivery of essential sexual and reproductive health services, including midwifery services and emergency obstetric care.

“We need universal access to high-quality, ethical and sustainable care for all women and girls in ensuring that their human rights and addressing the social determinants of health,” she added.

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Darboe said that ending fistula was at the heart of UNFPA’s mandate – gender inequality, child marriage, maternal mortality, adolescent pregnancy prevention, girls’ empowerment, which were all interlinked with fistula.

“It is important to understand that we are not only addressing health needs, but also their consequences, such as isolation from family and friends and marginalization and exclusion from communities.

“This force us to improve basic maternal and newborn care, safe surgery, women’s and girls’ empowerment, and the economic standing of the poorest of the poor,” she said.