Tblets, 22, from Tigray in Ethiopia’s far north, is in her fourth and final year of training at the Hamlin College of Midwives. When she graduates, she will return to a remote area of the region, to work as a midwife, as a way of preventing fistula and other childbirth injuries.
“I wanted to do this work to reduce the amount of maternal mortality and injuries in my country,” Tblets says. “Here it is a very high rate, too high. I want to help and it is thanks to Catherine that I am able to learn how to.”
Tblets is one of 92 students currently studying at the college and has already delivered 32 babies, among them a number of difficult breech births.
College Dean Zelalem Belete believes the trickier the cases students are involved with, the better prepared they’ll be when they finally return to their home areas.
“In Ethiopia, there are so few gynaecologists, a midwife has to serve as a gynaecologist, an obstetrician and a GP as well as a midwife,” he says. “So they have to develop the kind of skills they need to handle all sorts of problems.”
The Hamlin College of Midwives, established in 2007, trains midwives to work in rural health centres to prevent fistula and other serious birth injuries, as well as refer women with previous injuries to trained doctors at the Hamlin Fistula hospitals around the country.
When a Hamlin midwife joins a health centre, it has been found that fistula injuries plummet dramatically in surrounding villages.
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Story: Sue Williams