Fistula surgeon training program at Hamlin

Helping women beyond the borders of Ethiopia

As well as caring for the needs of Ethiopian women with obstetric fistula injuries, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia‘s surgeons take on the role of international trainers. Surgeons from many other countries apply to enter the Fistula Training Program, seeking to develop skills they can take back to their home countries.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is one of the prominent fistula training centres of FIGO – The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, enjoying a world-renowned reputation. Its training program creates an opportunity for dedicated physicians to acquire the knowledge, skills and professionalism needed to prevent obstetric fistula and with a holistic approach, to provide proper surgical, medical and psychosocial care to women who have incurred fistula whether during childbirth or because of inflicted trauma.

Leading the way in world class training

The training program lasts for six weeks – two weeks at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and four weeks at one of the Hamlin Fistula regional hospitals. Surgeons become accredited through intensive one on one training, using the competency-based Fistula Surgery Training Manual. The training has two levels: ‘Simple/Basic’ and ‘Advanced’. After completing their training, the surgeons return to their home hospitals and continue to be mentored by FIGO accredited surgeons/trainers such as Dr Fekade Ayenachew (Medical Director of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia).

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia and FIGO maintain a close partnership and the Hamlin program is part of the FIGO’s Fistula Surgery Training Initiative. Both surgeons and members of the nursing team can take part in the program. Recently, two Zambian surgeons joined the training program. Both Dr Willis Silwimba and Dr Kaunda Eugene are obstetrician gynaecologists from the Lusaka province in Zambia.

They provide care in rural parts of Zambia where women have little access to maternal health services. There is an acute shortage of trained fistula surgeons in the region and Drs Silwimba and Eugene’s developing skills in fistula treatment are an extremely welcome addition to their ability to provide much needed care to the women of Zambia.

Global FIGO meeting held at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital 

In November 2017, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia hosted a two-day interactive meeting organised by FIGO at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. The meeting was attended by more than 30 participants from all over the world who are FIGO accredited trainers – they provide support to experienced fistula surgeons and welcome trainees (Fellows) to the program. Our FIGO accredited trainers then had an incredibly busy few months, visiting and mentoring Fellows in Africa and Asia.

Dr Fekade Ayenachew travelled to Heal Africa in Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to mentor and train Fellows there.

Further training and mentoring has been provided to Fellows in Rwanda and in Bangladesh, in the Hope Hospital. The Hope Hospital is staffed with dedicated aid workers. They are beginning to find fistula survivors among the Rohingya refugee camps and the team has relayed stories of several women with fistula, who due to the crises, had to flee their homes in Myanmar. Once they arrived in Bangladesh, they were able to be referred to an experienced fistula team.

Working to eradicate fistula. Forever. 

Through the partnership between Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia and FIGO, medical expertise spreads beyond the boundaries of Ethiopia to benefit women from many other countries.

Over the last three years, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has been delighted to work with doctors and nursing staff from Yemen, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, Pakistan, the Congo, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Somali, Chad, Madagascar and looks forward to improving the care of fistula patients and maternal health in an ever-expanding number of countries.

Author: Felicity Gallimore – Obstetrician and Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation volunteer.

Click here to read more about the life-changing treatment work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.

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