2019 has been another positive year for Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration Program. This program was founded in 2002 with the goal of helping fistula survivors reclaim their dignity and lead a fulfilling life post-treatment. The program recognises the heart-breaking truth that the treatment of a woman’s physical injuries is not the end of her story. Many fistula survivors suffer emotional trauma after having been turned away from their families and shunned from society. In fact, a recent study published in BMC Psychiatry has found that 97% of women in Ethiopia with urinary incontinence due to obstetric fistula show symptoms of depression whilst 100% of patients with both urinary and faecal incontinence will show such symptoms. Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia aims to address this tragic statistic.
The road to recovery
The Rehabilitation and Reintegration Program is based at Desta Mender, meaning ‘Joy Village’ in Amharic. In the peaceful surrounds of this beautiful village the healing process can begin. Women are offered counselling, literacy and numeracy classes as well as life skills training. The team at Desta Mender support women to find sustainable employment or to establish and run their own small businesses upon reintegration back into their communities, ensuring they have every chance to thrive upon leaving Hamlin.
In 2019, 830 women were enrolled in life skills training and education courses, including:
~673 education courses graduates.
~52 women currently undertaking Hamlin’s specialised three-month Rehabilitation and Reintegration program.
~305 patients discharged back home with the skills and self-confidence ready to begin a new life.
The gift of a new life for Elfinish
In the past year, Hamlin’s rehabilitation efforts have helped many brave fistula survivors reclaim their lives and reintegrate back into society. Elfinish is one such incredibly courageous woman.
After a successful pregnancy and labour with her first child, Elfinish was shocked when her second pregnancy ended in a prolonged labour, leaving her with a double fistula and stillborn baby. Luckily, Elfinish was able to have her injuries treated at Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, but the severity of her injuries meant she needed a treatment program that included several complicated surgeries over a six-year period. During this time, Elfinish moved to Desta Mender where she received an individually tailored program that included a business management course. When she was physically ready to leave Desta Mender, Elfinish received a start-up grant to open her own small business; a convenience store in Begi, near her hometown.
Three years later, Elfinish’s store is thriving, providing her with a stable income, which allows her to live independently and most importantly for Elfinish, to be able to pay for her 10 year old daughter’s schooling and provide her with an education.
“To send women home to experience a normal life, after all they have suffered, is the greatest reward we can have.” – Dr Catherine Hamlin
Thank you for supporting Hamlin’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration program this year. To read more stories of women whose lives have been restored at Desta Mender, click here.
Author: Natalie Stals, medical student interning at Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation