You are here

Sana’a, Yemen – Women and girls in Yemen, including an estimated 3 million of childbearing age, are increasingly facing life-threatening conditions, as the health system is collapsing amid the ongoing conflict.

Shaima, a young woman from the northern city of Sa’ada was subjected to child marriage which led to her suffering from obstetric fistula for years. Forced by the conflict, she fled her home with her family to settle in the city of Sanaa and was only 14 years old when she got married to a man in his late 30s, whose first wife had passed away and had children.

 “In our community, girls are married off at young age like 9 or 10. For me, I was 14 and it was considered late. I did not have a choice but to marry the first one who offered to take me. So, I wedded to a widow,” she explained.


A group of fistula patients recieving treatment at the Al Thawara Hospital. © UNFPA Yemen/Fahmia Al-Fotih

This was the beginning of a long line of suffering. As Shaima turned 15, she suffered a miscarriage as a result of complications linked to her young age. In her second pregnancy, and because of economic hardships caused by the conflict, Shaima was unable to reach a hospital in time and delivered at home, only with the help of a neighbor. She developed an obstetric fistula injury during childbirth.

Despite this, she got pregnant for the third time but could still not afford to deliver in a hospital, and her neighbor helped her again; her fistula got worse. When Shaima could no longer bear the pains of her injuries, her family took her to the nearest hospital.

She was immediately referred to the fistula unit at the Al Thawara Hospital in Sana'a where she successfully underwent a fistula repair surgery.

“Now my pain is gone. I feel as if I am reborn," she told UNFPA.


UNFPA has helped in establishing two fistula units in Yemen, including the one at the Al Thawara Hospital in Sanaa where Shaimaa was successfuly treeted. © UNFPA Yemen

Obstetric fistula is one of the most serious and tragic childbirth injuries. It is caused by prolonged, obstructed labour, without access to timely, high-quality medical treatment. It leaves women leaking urine, faeces or both, and often leads to chronic medical problems, depression and social isolation.

More than 2 million women in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab region, and Latin America and the Caribbean are estimated to be living with fistula, and some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop annually. Yet fistula is almost entirely preventable.

UNFPA has helped in establishing two fistula units in Yemen. At the Al Thawara Hospital in Sana’a, 28 fistula surgeries were successfully treated free of charge in recent months.

In the south, 90 percent of fistula surgeries were undertaken successfully with UNFPA’s support. In addition, UNFPA has created and strengthened a network between community volunteers, community midwives and reproductive health and fistula experts from most of the governorates to help women suffering from fistula get services at the fistula units.