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Obstetric Fistula: A Rising Global Issue

Adrian Kimmok


For each minute that it takes you to read this post, a woman is dying in labor, and for every birthing death, twenty more women are left suffering from disability.

Obstetric fistula is the most devastating of all pregnancy-related disabilities. Worldwide, the condition affects over two million women. Obstetric fistula results from prolonged, obstructed labor without access to timely medical care, typically a caesarean section.  During prolonged labor, the positioning of the baby and the pressure of the infant’s head can result in damage to the organs of a women’s pelvis. In almost 90% of fistula cases the infant is stillborn or dies within the first week of birth.

Women suffering from fistula are incapable of carrying out their normal workload, and they rely heavily on others for support.  In many instances, women report being divorced from their husbands, ostracized from their families, and forced out of their communities as a result of fistula—being pushed deeper into poverty and destitution.

Obstetric fistula is not a third-world anomaly. For centuries, women all over the world have been faced with prolonged, obstructed labor and obstetric fistula. In fact, the first fistula hospital was located in New York City on the site of what is now the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. In the U.S., the availability of timely obstetric care has helped to eradicate fistula, yet women in Africa, South Asia, and other developing countries of the world still suffer from this preventable and treatable condition.

Surgery can treat the fistula, but the cost of surgical treatment and the lack of trained surgeons prevent women from receiving care. In countries of civil unrest, healthcare services are often depleted, roadways accessible to hospitals and clinics are destroyed, and women are physically, sexually, and psychologically abused. Fistula is rarely discussed and many afflicted women feel alone in their suffering.

Programs implemented to achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDG) five, aimed at reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health, are helping to prevent obstetric fistula. Family planning, skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetric care are important for reducing fistula. Unfortunately, ten years into the 2015 deadline, we are still far from achieving MDG five.


The Right-Wing Curtain

Adrian Kimmok


What initially appeared as an easy victory for the Conservative alliance in the Swedish Parliamentary election has turned out to become a political chaos. To win the election in Sweden a party or alliance needs to win the most mandates. The Conservatives did win the election with 172 mandates, while the Social Democrats got 157, which is more close then anticipated.

What frightens me is that the Swedish Democrats, a party very hostile to immigration, had their best election ever, with 5.8 percent of the votes. This means that for the Conservatives to keep their majority in the Riksdag they may be forced to join forces with those who have the mandates they need. Officially, the Green Party has turned down the offer to cooperate as they belong to the left side of the political spectrum. This is a complicated situation, because if the Green party refuses to cooperate with the Conservative Alliance, it means that the Swedish Democrats may have some influence on Swedish politics in the years to come, and thereby lay the foundations for gaining even greater strength towards the next parliamentary election in four years.

Some people say there is little to worry about. I say there is little to worry about only for the short time being. The Swedish Democrats have no clear policy on, for example, the welfare state, which is extremely important in the Scandinavian countries. That may be a reason why the party still stays isolated from the more established parties, since it seems that they only are a protest party with one policy on their agenda, their hostile immigration policy.

Although the outcomes of this political situation is not set in stone, I can confidently tell you this: there is without a doubt a right wing uprising across Europe these days. Right wing parties all over Europe have increased in popularity the last couple of years, and it is likely they will continue to grow. The financial crisis and despair with the ruling governments have gotten some of the blame for this uprising. It seems to be causing Europe to move towards a challenging time both politically and economically, with extremists on all sides of the political spectrum taking advantage of it the best they can—and with success.

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