Statement

Statement by Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, UNFPA Representative at the endorsement of Mr. John Dumelo as obstetric fistula ambassador in Ghana

11 August 2016

Dr. Chairperson, 

Honourable Minister of Health, 

Honourable Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection,

Directors of Ghana Health Service,

Our Committed Fistula Surgeons,

Our Dependable National Fistula Taskforce Members,

Our Esteemed Religious Leaders,

Our Fistula Advocates,

Our Brave Fistula Survivors, 

Distinguished Invited Guests, Friends from the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Obstetric fistula is almost exclusively a condition of the poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalized women and girls. It afflicts those who lack access to timely, high-quality, and life-saving maternal health care that they need and deserve as their basic human rights. I have a wife, mother and sisters. They are so dear to my heart and I cannot imagine seeing any them go through such an undignified experience. I am personally outraged that fistula, which is preventable, still occurs in today’s world and in Ghana.

The Global Campaign to End Fistula, launched in 2003 by UNFPA, and partners, has catalysed progress towards eliminating fistula and supporting fistula survivors through its three-pronged strategy of prevention, treatment and social reintegration. UNFPA Ghana has rolled out this strategy in country and we have been able to make a difference in the lives of many Ghanaian women. However, much more needs to be done.  

Dr. Chair,

Three months ago specifically on the 23 of May 2016, the global community, including Ghana observed the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula and it was under the theme, “End fistula within a generation”, that is, within 30 years. I see the theme as very appropriate for today’s event, particularly when one of our own sons and brother of the soil has agreed to take up the challenge of championing the cause of eliminating Obstetric Fistula and bring the issue to the doorsteps of all Ghanaians for collective resolution.

Hon Ministers,

For us in the United Nations Population Fund, ending fistula remains one of our highest priorities, and we will continue to accelerate efforts to achieve this, both in our own work and within the United Nations system. UNFPA and partners here in Ghana have made significant progress towards eliminating fistula through advocacy, prevention and treatment as well as support for survivors to socially reintegrate back into their communities.  

Despite these, a lot more needs to be done. Why am I saying so? In 2015 (last year), under the supervision of the Ghana Health Service and the National Fistula Task-team, a study was conducted on Obstetric Fistula that revealed the burden of the condition in the country.  Before this study, we only talked without evidence. The results were revealing and disturbing. As many as 1352 new cases develop in Ghana each year. We are only able to treat just a little over 100 annually. You can all imagine the existing backlog alongside the new occurrences.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

I reiterate that fistula is a condition that is completely preventable. So, then why should our mothers, sisters, aunts and daughters be laden with such a mishap when they are simply trying to bring forth new life into this world, ensuring the continuity of humanity. Most of these unfortunate women and girls are excluded from daily community life and often isolated socially and emotionally, making it difficult to maintain a source of income or support, thus deepening their poverty and magnifying their suffering. The available funding and attention from all current sources are not sufficient and we cannot let this continue. 

Let us all join hands to help the less privileged as John Dumelo has agreed to do. Let us all heed to the call of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind, especially those most neglected, invisible and powerless, including the women and girls living with fistula. Now is the time, and I am confident Ghana can do it. 

We can end child marriage, prevent teen pregnancy, provide timely, comprehensive emergency obstetric services, and provide needed treatment.   

Ladies and gentlemen,

We cannot give up until the whole threat of fistula is expunged from all our communities. We cannot give up until every woman and girl has the preventive care she needs. We cannot give up until every single woman and girl living with fistula has been treated. We cannot give up until every fistula survivor receives the social reintegration and support services she needs to rebuild her life, reclaim her dignity, and restore her hope and dreams for the future. 

Let us together decide, as a country, as a people, that the Ghana we want is one where fistula no longer exists. Let us, once and for all, put an end to this assault on women’s and girls’ health and human rights, which steals from them their very dignity and destroys the most fundamental of human qualities: hope. Much of the world has already virtually eliminated fistula. It is time for us to finish the job here in Ghana. Let us all together write a report of zero fistula incidence in Ghana, come 2030 when we are to give an account of our pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

I thank you for your kind attention.