Blood Was Scarcer than Gold

Dr Catherine Hamlin has spent 60 years transforming women’s lives in Ethiopia. In the early days of working as an obstetrician in a developing country, this was certainly not without its challenges! The ingenuity of Catherine and her late husband Reg to overcome these obstacles demonstrated their dedication to help the most vulnerable women of Ethiopia.

The Early Days in Ethiopia

When Reg and Catherine first arrived in Ethiopia in 1959, they worked in a military hospital. Back then, there was no blood bank in Ethiopia, and donating blood was very uncommon. Excerpts taken from Catherine’s book, The Hospital by the River, gives a vivid recollection of their experience:

“We learned very early that blood was scarcer than gold. The idea of taking blood was rare in Ethiopia…in those early days there was no blood bank…in desperation Reg rang the British Embassy and went and collected car-loads of possible donors.” – Dr Catherine Hamlin

Reg and Catherine’s problem solving also took an international approach. Calling upon their connections in Australia, they received help from the Red Cross in Sydney:

“We used to get frozen plasma from the Red Cross in Sydney. We might have a woman come in bleeding to death, and we’d had nothing to give her! So, this plasma was life-saving.” – Dr Catherine Hamlin

World-Class Treatment in the Heart of Ethiopia

In 1974, Drs Reg and Catherine Hamlin opened the world’s first modern fistula treatment facility, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Today is the 45th anniversary of the hospital’s opening! Founding this hospital changed the maternal healthcare of Ethiopia forever. Because of Catherine and the team at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, over 60,000 women have received best practice fistula treatment and had their dignity restored.

Despite the obstacles and challenges, Catherine has remained devoted to the women of Ethiopia for 60 years. She is now 95 years old. Her dream is to eradicate fistula, forever. You can help make her dream a reality by donating here.

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