We were touched and appalled by the sadness of our first fistula patient: a beautiful young woman in urine-soaked ragged clothes, sitting alone in our outpatients department away from the other waiting patients. We knew she was more in need than any of the others. She had been through a long labour of five days with only the village women to help. And so we saw the first of many fistula sufferers.

– Dr Catherine Hamlin

A Lifetime of Caring

Dr Catherine Hamlin AC

Transforming maternal care

Catherine and Reg Hamlin travelled to Ethiopia for the first time almost 60 years ago, and initially only planned to stay for three years. On the evening of their arrival in Ethiopia, a fellow gynaecologist told them, “The fistula patients will break your hearts.” And indeed they did.

The Hamlins had never seen an obstetric fistula case before and there was little or no treatment available in Ethiopia.

But, they did something about it.

Catherine and Reg Hamlin refused to turn their backs on the women of Ethiopia. These two surgical pioneers remained in Ethiopia following their initial three-year posting to continue treating the most marginalised women: those who have suffered an obstetric fistula, an internal injury caused by an obstructed childbirth, which leaves them incontinent, humiliated and lingering with a horrible odour, causing social isolation and shame.

They went about dramatically transforming the maternal healthcare landscape for the women of Ethiopia.

The Hamlin dream

My dream is to eradicate obstetric fistula… I won’t do this in my lifetime, but you can in yours.

– Dr Catherine Hamlin

Dr Catherine Hamlin AC
Dr Catherine Hamlin AC

Our new fistula frontier – Uganda

Catherine’s success in Ethiopia has encouraged the Hamlin team and its partners to help women in other countries to access the Hamlin Model of Care in eradicating obstetric fistula.

Find out more


Read our blog posts about Dr Catherine Hamlin here.

Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation has one purpose and one purpose only: eradicating fistula. Forever.