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Obstetric fistula is one of the most serious and tragic injuries that can occur during childbirth. The condition typically leaves women incontinent, as well as subject to infections or other health conditions. Women with fistula are often shunned by their communities.

Yet the condition is almost entirely preventable. Its persistence is a sign of global inequality and an indication that health systems are failing to protect the health and human rights of the poorest and most vulnerable women and girls. Those without access to modern maternal health services are more likely to suffer from obstetric fistula, for example. And girls who are subjected to child marriage and adolescent pregnancy are also more vulnerable, since the condition is more likely to afflict those who become pregnant while still physically immature.

The United Nations has observed the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula since 2013. The day, 23 May, is meant to raise awareness of this issue and mobilize support around the globe.