What We Do

A Walk to Beautiful courtesy Engel Entertainment.


Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is the registered charity in Addis Ababa which runs the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, its regional centres, the Hamlin College of Midwives and Desta Mender.


The main hospital campus is in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. Built in 1974 on land leased to the Hamlins by the Ethiopian Government, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital has a number of wards, a large operating theatre accommodating two surgical teams, a physiotherapy department and pathology services. The hospital has a 120-bed capacity but at times has two patients in some beds.

Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital


Due to a lack of transport infrastructure and harsh geography, many patients cannot access the capital for treatment at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. For some the cost of a bus fare to Addis is just not possible for their family. For this reason, in 2003, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia began an ambitious plan to build five regional Hamlin Fistula Centres. These capital works have been funded by international donors and have enabled us to treat many more patients in the provinces where health services are very limited. We have now built Hamlin Fistula Centres in Mekele in the north, Yirgalem in the south, Harar in the east, Metu in the northwest and Bahr Dar in the northeast. Each Hamlin Fistula Centre is close to a government-funded general hospital. Pictured below is the 40-bed ward at Yirgalem in the south of Ethiopia. At times this hospital is so busy there are two patients in each bed. This region needs an additional 20 bed ward for the Hamlin Fistula Centre Yirgalem, but we need funding for this.


The Hamlin College of Midwives is an important step towards a sustainable prevention strategy for the women and girls of Ethiopia to avoid obstetric fistula in the first place. According to the UNFPA, every two minutes, somewhere in the world, a woman dies in pregnancy or labour. In Ethiopia alone, approximately 9,000 women die in obstructed labour each year with another 9,000 surviving but with a fistula.

The Hamlins’ original intention for working in Ethiopia was to train midwives so that women have access to a clean, safe birth. Almost 50 years later, Dr Hamlin has seen to it that local Ethiopian midwives are recruited from high school graduates in the provinces, trained in a four-year degree with a vigorous curriculum of theory and practice, then deployed back to the provinces to work alongside mothers and families. In 2010, the first 11 graduates were employed in health centres in areas close to our regional centres and we have over 70 midwives in training at present.


On the outskirts of Addis Ababa is a farm and training facility built on land beside a mountain, given to Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia by the Ethiopian government. Dr Catherine Hamlin’s youngest brother Jock Nicholson, a farmer from Tamworth, and his wife Louise helped to establish this property in 2001.

Desta Mender, which translates to Joy Village, is where long-term patients can live for a period of time, learn skills and gain some independence so that they can return to village life while living close to one of our hospitals. If a patient cannot be cured and she has to have a stoma, she needs access to clean equipment and ongoing medical care.

Desta Mender has market gardens, an orchard, dairy and chicken farm as well as the Juniper Café where residents learn hospitality skills. In 2010, Rae Newman, an Australian home economics teacher from Canberra, spent a year at Desta Mender teaching the residents how to make meat pies and Lamingtons. We have had a number of past fistula patients who have gone on to establish their own businesses including a dairy, jewellery business and a cafe on the road between Desta Mender and the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.

The centre is run by a talented team including centre manager Beletshachew Tadesse who has an exciting strategic vision for its development into a conference venue but most of all as a facility providing training for our past patients and reintegration back into village life and meaningful employment.

Desta Mender is also the location of the Hamlin College of Midwives’ campus.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia