On Wednesday 29th May, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia celebrated Dr Catherine Hamlin’s 60 years of life-changing work in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and First Lady Zinash Tayachew visited the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital to recognise Catherine’s lifetime of dedication to the women of Ethiopia. During the ceremony, a statue was inaugurated in honour of Catherine and her late husband, Dr Reg Hamlin.
A Nation Changed Forever
When Catherine and Reg arrived in Ethiopia in 1959, they intended to stay for three years. At the end of their initial posting however, they decided to remain in Ethiopia and continue treating those who needed them most, the thousands of women suffering from obstetric fistula.
Since her arrival, Catherine’s efforts have dramatically changed maternal healthcare in Ethiopia. In 1974, she co-founded the world’s first modern specialised fistula treatment centre, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. In 2007, she opened the Hamlin College of Midwives, which provides midwives to remote areas of Ethiopia where women do not have access to professional medical care, thereby preventing thousands of fistula cases from occurring.
Because of Catherine, over 60,000 women have been treated and cured of their fistula injuries. Every patient she has encountered has been treated with compassion and respect.
Honouring a Remarkable Woman
On Wednesday, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia hosted a ceremony commemorating the life of Catherine and Reg in Ethiopia. Among present were patients, student midwives, hospital staff and Hamlin Fistula members as well as many of Catherine’s close friends. As the guest of honour, the Ethiopian Prime Minister gave a speech recognising Catherine’s great impact on Ethiopia and presented her with a prestigious citizenship award on behalf of the Government of Ethiopia. She is one of three people to ever receive this accolade.
During the ceremony, Catherine said a few words about her life in Ethiopia:
“I feel so much love here in this compound today. Thank you all for being with me all these years. I love you all, I love Ethiopia and I have loved every day here… I will die soon. I am happy my grave will be here in Ethiopia, my home”. – Dr Catherine Hamlin
Dr. Catherine Hamlin and the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed
Recognition for Hospital Staff
As well as honouring the lifelong contribution of Catherine, Wednesday was also a day to recognise the service of long-term staff members at the hospital. Towards the end of the ceremony, staff members who had been at the hospital for over 40 years were presented a medal of service. Among these recipients were Mamitu and Lete, former fistula sufferers who have dedicated their life after surgery to the fellow patients at the hospital. They have been by Catherine’s side for decades and see her as their Emaye, Mother.
A Lifetime of Caring
Catherine has devoted her life to uplifting the marginalised women of Ethiopia, firm in her belief that every woman has the right to live her life with dignity. Once believing that they were incurable, women with fistula now have a source of hope in Catherine and her team at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.
Catherine’s dream is to eradicate fistula in Ethiopia by 2030. To read more about her lifetime of service in Ethiopia and see how you can help achieve her dream of eradicating fistula, click here.