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How one woman reclaimed her life after suffering from fistula for 25 years

15 December 2017

After enduring a long and painful delivery of her third child at home in her village in Balochistan, Pakistan, Sarsan knew that something was wrong. The raw and throbbing pain she felt was way more severe than her previous births and urine began leaking down her legs, uncontrollably. She was told it would subside in a few days. Days turned into decades.

For more than 25 years, Sarsan suffered in silence with obstetric fistula. She was shunned in her village – unable to offer her prayers at the mosque or participate in community gatherings, such as weddings or funerals. But one day, her eldest son came to visit with news that would change her life forever.

“I heard that fistula is treatable – I was moved to tears” recalls Sarsan.

Fistula: A preventable and treatable condition

This heart-breaking reality is all too common in Balochistan. Hundreds of women in Pakistan suffer in silence, unaware that they can seek medical assistance for obstetric complications like fistula. As one of the most underprivileged provinces of Pakistan, access to health services remain a challenge for most women. Only 30 per cent of women have received antenatal care from a skilled health-care provider. Without the adequate information and access to health care and skilled birth attendants, women, like Sarsan, will continue to suffer with the completely preventable and treatable condition.

Strengthening health systems to respond

UNFPA is committed to creating awareness about the importance of skilled obstetric care and to fight against stigmatization of women with fistula. UNFPA, in partnership with the Pakistan National Forum on Women's Health, has established national and regional treatment centers for fistula across the country, which has increased the number of women and girls accessing necessary care and treatment.

Over the past decade, 5,500 women received free surgical fistula treatment and 500 have received rehabilitation services across Pakistan with the support of UNFPA. In addition, thousands of healthcare personnel have been given training on fistula prevention and management.

Since Sarsan successfully underwent surgical repair, she has returned to her community, with a new-found confidence and fervor for life. “It has changed my life and the lives of those in my family,” Sarsan told UNFPA. “In the future, I will encourage other women in my community to visit a skilled health care provider.”