Objectives: To determine the prevalence of obstetric fistula in rural Ethiopia and identify the circumstances and barriers to care that enhance development of obstetric fistula and its health and social consequences.
Design: A cross-sectional study.
Setting: The study was conducted in seven out of eleven administrative regions of Ethiopia by visiting randomly selected houses in rural areas and identifying women who have or had obstetric fistula and interviewing them.
Results: A total of 19,153 houses were visited. Untreated fistula prevalence was about 1.5 per 1000 amounting to approximately 26,819 women. Most of the patients were young women who delivered for the first time. Marriage took place early in life mostly through family arrangements or abduction. The median number of days in labour was three to eight.
Conclusion: Promotive measures such as increasing age at marriage, and identification and treatment of patients should be intensified. There is a great need in improving accessibility and affordability of basic and emergency obstetric services for rural communities. Curving the situation in the long run requires dealing with the problem of poverty and improvement in the status of women.