Liya’s life has been turned around!

Desta Mender



September 12, 2019

A woman’s fistula injury is not the end of her story

Donate today to help turn a woman’s life around.

Sometimes surgery is not enough to heal women suffering with an obstetric fistula. Survivors have suffered real trauma. Many women cannot return to their communities and few have an income that allows them to live independently.

In 2002, Dr Catherine Hamlin founded Desta Mender (‘Joy Village’), a recovery centre where long-term fistula patients with severe injuries can continue to heal. Desta Mender also provides women and girls with vocational training and income-generation skills to support reintegration back into their communities.

“To send women home to experience a normal life, after all they have suffered, is the greatest reward we can have.” – Dr Catherine Hamlin

Meet Liya, a recent patient at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s Desta Mender. Like most young women at age 21 she dreams of a happy and independent life, with the opportunity to start her own business.

Two years ago, her dreams were very different.

A dark time


Like many Ethiopian women, when Liya went into labour, she was at home without a midwife or doctor. For seven days, she struggled through a painful labour and eventually delivered a stillborn baby.

The long, unrelieved obstructed labour caused severe nerve damage and left holes in both her bladder and rectum, leaving her permanently incontinent.

For almost two years, Liya was unable to move from her bed, soaked in urine and faeces. Her husband left her and she relied on her father to feed and clean her.

“I would cry day and night and sometimes wish to die rather than live in such agony.” – Liya

Finally, a health worker visited the village, found Liya and referred her to the outreach team at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia. With news of a cure, her father, with the help of their neighbours, carried Liya for three days on a stretcher to the nearest road. There, an ambulance was waiting to take her to Hamlin’s regional Yirgalem Fistula Hospital.

A life transformed


Liya’s injuries were so severe, it took over a year before she was ready to have her first operation at Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Six months later, she had her final surgery.

After years of incontinence, Liya was finally cured.

In February of this year, Liya began Hamlin’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration Program at Desta Mender, where she received individualised counselling as well as business, leadership and life skills training.

With support from the Hamlin reintegration team, Liya now has plans to open a small shop. Armed with a range of new skills from the program, she feels confident she will start her own business and be able to live independently in her community.

From darkness to light, Liya’s life has been turned around! This was only possible thanks to our generous donors. Will you help more women like Liya thrive?

‘My plan is to go back to my village and open a small merchandising shop which I will be running according to the business skills I acquired here at Desta Mender. I am more inspired now to become successful in the business and lead a happy, independent life.” – Liya

You can help women like Liya survive… and thrive! Click here to help today.