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Health experts calling for an end to child marriages

Author: Charles Wote | Published: Friday, May 31, 2019

South Sudan midwifery students attends to a baby on 9 February 2018. [Photo credit | |UNFPA

Health experts are calling for an end to child marriages as a way of ending obstetric fistula in South Sudan.

Yesterday, South Sudan commemorated the International day to end obstetric fistula.

The global theme for this year is “fistula is a human rights violation – end it now.”

According to the United Nations Population Fund, South Sudan has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates, and approximately 60,000 women and girls are thought to suffer from fistula.

It says the country’s poor health infrastructure means many women lack access to emergency obstetric care.

Speaking at the event in Juba, a Reproductive Health specialist at UNFPA, Dr. Stephen Mawa says there is a need to abolish forced marriages that often result in early pregnancies.

He told Eye Radio that girls who are pregnant before their bodies are ready are much more likely to experience fistula.

“Generally, fistula is everywhere in our experience we have seen fistula cases in all the states of South Sudan but from those who have come for treatment, we see more cases in areas where there are high provenience of child marriage. ”

He said that there is a strong coordination between child marriage and fistula and that more need to be done to end child marriages and increase in antenatal care attendance.

The Special Adviser to the Minister of Health, Dr. Samson Baba says ending the practice of child marriage is critical, both to prevent fistula and to protect the overall well-being of girls.

“What we can do is to prevent this early marriages. Keep the girl child in school, let the girl be educated because when they are educated, they know more. When you educate one girl, you educate the whole family. When she marries, she will know how to manage.”

The health experts also says access to emergency obstetric care – particularly timely access to facilities and health staff able to perform a Caesarean section – must be improved.

They further called for the empowerment of women through family planning programmes so that they understand spacing births to help improve their maternal health.

Obstetric fistula is an injury in the birth canal of a woman caused by prolonged and obstructed labour.

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