United Nations, Geneva

Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

The statement, read by Rev. Jackline Makena, was submitted jointly by the World Council of Churches and Geneva for Human Rights.

The condition of obstetric fistula is a preventable physical injury which occurs after a prolonged or obstructed labour without access to adequate health care. It can result in urinary and often faecal incontinence, infection, physical impairment, disability, societal rejection, breakdown of marriage, and a loss of livelihoods,” said Makena as she read the statement. 

Pregnant women in conflict zones are at particular risk, as they cant access normal maternity services, including emergency caesarean sections, and often go into labour malnourished, weak, and dealing with high levels of trauma.

Whilst the associated shame can cause sufferers to remain hidden from society, more effort must be made to ensure that this issue does not remain hidden,” said Makena. 

A resolution adopted in September 2023 on preventable maternal mortality, morbidity, and human rights refer to obstetric fistula among other conditions. 

"We call upon all UN human rights mechanisms dealing with womens rights, with health, with poverty and many other related concerns, to systematically address the issue of obstetric fistula in their mandates,” said Makena.


Watch here the session during which Rev. Jackline Makena is delivering the WCC statement at the United Nations, Geneva

WCC guide raises awareness of obstetric fistula (WCC news release, October 2023)

Free download of the WCC publication: "A Guide for Churches on the Prevention of Obstetric Fistula"

Learn more about the WCC work on "Human dignity and rights"