Tuesday’s earthquake in Haiti reminds us how vulnerable women and
children are – particularly in times of disaster. Poor and disadvantaged women
tend to be unequally affected by natural disasters and are often
overrepresented in death tolls.
One of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti already has the
highest rate of maternal
mortality in the region – 670 deaths per 100,000 live births. Pregnant
women in and around the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, lack access to even
the most basic health services.
Although the odds are against women in Haiti, and against women throughout the
developing world, success stories do exist: Caroline Ditina is a young woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo who
successfully survived obstetric fistula — a medical condition that the World
Health Organization (WHO) calls "the single most dramatic aftermath of
Last week, this same young woman was highlighted in Secretary Clinton’s
landmark speech, during which she cited Caroline’s story as a reminder that "Every woman everywhere deserves
high-quality care not only at her most vulnerable hour, but at every single
stage of life."
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Below, you can watch Caroline’s story for yourself. During an interview with
the United Nations Foundation, she spoke about the social, emotional and
economic challenges of obstetric fistula.
Caroline Ditina is a young woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo who successfully survived obstetric fistula – a medical condition that the World Health Organization (WHO) calls the single most dramatic aftermath of neglected childbirth.
Last week, Caroline was highlighted in Secretary Clinton’s landmark speech. Secretary Clinton cited Caroline’s story as a reminder that every woman everywhere deserves high-quality care not only at her most vulnerable hour, but at every stage of life.
In developing countries, an estimated two million women are living with
fistula, with an additional 50,000 to 100,000 new cases occurring each year.
The average cost of fistula treatment – including surgery, post-operative care
and rehabilitation support – is $300, which is, unfortunately, well beyond the
reach of most women with the condition. Because of the stigma attached to the
condition, women who develop fistulas are often abandoned by their husbands,
rejected by their communities, and forced to live an isolated existence.
Caroline’s story, and the stories of millions of women like her, continue to
remind us of the importance of addressing the needs and rights of women and
girls – particularly those who are most vulnerable. Caroline is a success
story; many are not so lucky.
To learn more about how the United Nations Foundation is working with the UN
Population Fund (UNFPA)’s Campaign to End Fistula to help more women like