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Eritrea is a vast country with many remote villages. Without transport, a pregnant women may have to walk 30 kilometres to give birth safely at a health facility. This is why UNFPA, in partnership with the Government of Eritrea, has built 41 maternity waiting homes across the country to ensure that when women are ready to deliver, they are already close to a health facility. The homes provide them with access to medical care when they need it and ensure them of a place to stay prior to their delivery.

Eritrea is one of the few African countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal mortality by 45 per cent. Now the government aims to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of fewer than 70 preventable maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030.


A large portion of the Eritrean population lives in extremely rural parts of the country. Here, underage marriage and female genital mutilation are still practiced. Mothers are often forced to deliver their babies at home, risking complications such as obstetric fistula. This is a major injury following prolonged and obstructed delivery, leading to the constant leakage of urine and/or faeces through the vagina.

Fistula is prevalent in Eritrea, especially among girls who find themselves in a position of marriage and pregnancy before the age of 18 years. The Campaign to End Fistula started in Eritrea in 2003, with the support of UNFPA. Since then, more than 1,700 fistula repairs have been successfully conducted. Graduating doctors are also required to be able to perform emergency Caesarian sections to prevent fistula.

This video shows the difference UNFPA's intervention to surgically repair and socially reintegrate women suffering from fistula has had in their lives.


This is the story of Fatima, 6, who is about to undergo female genital mutilation in her village in Gash Bakar. Learn how UNFPA is fighting FGM in Eritrea, where it is widely practiced, with an overall prevalence of 83 per cent (Eritrean Population Health Survey, 2010). However, this is an improvement from 89 per cent in 2002. These achievements are the result of a collective approach to abandonment of the practice, which was outlawed in all forms in 2007.


The evidence is clear: When girls are given the power to make an informed choice about marriage, they marry later. Laws are an important first step, but programmes are also needed to empower girls with information about their rights and educate parents about the benefits of keeping their daughters in school.


As more and more women, girls, men and boys learn about FGM and its harm, opposition to the practice is growing. In the last two decades, the proportion of girls and women in high-prevalence countries who want the practice to stop has doubled.

Somalia-born Ifrah Ahmed campaigns to end female genital mutilation. Here she describes her fight to end this injustice against women and girls.


Around the world, girls are subjected to child marriage, female genital mutilation and son preference. They are denied their equality and their humanity. We have the tools to end these harmful practices. We have seen solutions that work. What we need now are the investments. And the will.


Dr. Catherine Hamlin, who passed away in March 2020, dedicated most of her  life to treating women and girls with fistula, focusing not only on the physical injury itself, but also on the scars created by stigma and discrimination. Her charitable organization, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, has brought hope and healing to women and girls, raised global awareness of fistula and spurred innovative efforts to end it.


The community of Itula, located in the lost valley of Shabunda, more than 3000 kilometres from the capital city Kinshasa, is no longer being left behind. It took the community 20 days to clear a section of forest and help create a helipad to deliver emergency reproductive health kits to the once isolated and deprived Itula Hospital. Deployed by UNFPA, the kits could not have come at a better time for Danielle, who gave birth safely that night. Watch the heart-warming story of this young woman and her community.


Watch this touching story of Congolese midwife Estelle Bahati, who commutes for three days and more than 360 kilometres to finally reach Itula on foot, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With support from UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, she brings hope and improvements to women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health, safe childbirth, family planning and gender-based violence prevention and response.


Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, Regional Director for UNFPA East and Southern Africa, discusses the role of midwives in integrated health services, at the International Conference of Midwives (ICM) Africa Regional Conference in Windhoek, Namibia, from 12-14 September 2019.