Senegal: Access to information is essential to fight obstetric fistula

On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Obstetric Fistula, ARTICLE 19 emphasized the essential role of access to information in the fight against this disorder.
“Access to information must be the first step in winning the fight against obstetric fistula,” said FatouJagneSenghore, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Senegal. Nowadays, [this disorder] can be prevented and treated in almost all cases, and people need to know it, “she added.
The latest study conducted by ARTICLE 19 in the Tambacounda region shows that despite the presence of the organization, the local population does not know how to prevent or treat obstetric fistula. Lack of information about medical services is a real problem in Tambacounda, and unfortunately, hundreds of women in the region continue to suffer the consequences of this type of injury.
The results speak for themselves: of the 400 respondents, 87.3% of men and 88.3% of women have never heard of obstetric fistula. More than three quarters of the population do not know what the symptoms are and only 15% of the population know that restorative surgery is free in Senegal.
To eliminate obstetric fistula, it is essential that people first know how to avoid it and how to treat it.
Senegal has services dedicated to treating women with this disorder, but their mere existence is not enough. The entire population, including those living in isolated rural areas, must be able to obtain information about access to these services.
Promoting information to citizens should be one of the priorities of Senegal’s health authorities. ARTICLE 19 welcomes and supports the decision of the Senegalese government to recruit a thousand health professionals, including 500 midwives, to combat maternal mortality. The organization reminds the Senegalese authorities that if they do not make access to information a key element of their public health policy, it will be difficult to make progress on maternal health.
ARTICLE 19 urges the Senegalese government to:
•  adopt a law on access to information providing information to the general public on public services;
• Improve mechanisms within the health facility to ensure that women are effectively monitored by professionals and can obtain reproductive health information.
Obstetric fistula is a lesion that can occur in women’s bladder or rectum after a long and difficult delivery. Affected women can no longer control their bladder and / or bowel function, and often find themselves marginalized

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