Maternal Deaths Decrease by 70% in Ethiopia – a Hamlin Success Story

The maternal mortality rate in Ethiopia has dropped by 70% in recent decades, according to the Ministry of Health Ethiopia (1).

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has made a significant contribution to reducing maternal deaths by increasing access to quality maternal healthcare, especially in under-serviced rural areas.

Maternal mortality reducing  

In 1990, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported the mortality rate for mothers in Ethiopia was 1,250 deaths in every 100,000 live births. Remarkably, there has since been a 70% reduction, with current reports stating only 353 maternal deaths occurs per 100,000 live births (1). This is due to the Ethiopian health ministry working together with NGOs to improve accessibility to obstetric healthcare amenities across the country. Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has played a large role, especially in rural areas where quality healthcare was previously scarce.


Obstructed labour – a major cause of maternal death

One of the most common causes of maternal death in Ethiopia, is complications arising from obstructed labour. One of these complications includes obstetric fistula, which left untreated, results in a life of exclusion of shame. It can also lead to kidney disorders and even death.

Due to lack of access to quality maternal healthcare, especially in rural areas, obstructed labour is a major concern in Ethiopia. More than 70% of births take place without a skilled birth attendant present.

To prevent complications from obstructed labour, the answer is to increase access to trained midwives. At Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, we have always believed that every woman should be able to have a safe delivery. For over 60 years, Dr Catherine Hamlin has contributed to changing the landscape of maternal health in Ethiopia through advocating for prevention through access to skilled medical care during childbirth.

Prevention – the importance of a Hamlin Midwife

According to the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), midwives could provide 87% of the necessary maternal healthcare in developing countries. Furthermore, midwives can identify and address childbirth complications early, reducing the likelihood of maternal death. ICM estimated two thirds of maternal deaths could be prevented with the presence of a trained midwife during childbirth.

The Hamlin College of Midwives was established in 2007, as part of Catherine Hamlin’s dream for “a midwife in every village.” Students are recruited from rural areas in Ethiopia to be trained in a rigorous four-year BSc in Midwifery, after which they return to serve their communities. In most cases, they are the only skilled healthcare workers for hundreds of kilometres.


Since 2007, 145 midwives have graduated from the College, and now over 50 rural midwifery clinics are staffed by Hamlin Midwives. The impact of one of these midwives in a rural area is undeniable. Hamlin Midwives come from within the community, often resulting in patients trusting the midwifery clinic. As seen in Eastern Ethiopia, the Jarso Health Centre saw 36 annual deliveries before 2011. Since the Hamlin-supported midwifery clinic was established at the centre, it now sees 1,300 annual deliveries. Additionally, new cases of fistula drop to almost zero in surrounding villages.

Through the success of over 50 Hamlin-supported midwifery clinics, thousands of maternal deaths have been prevented. We hope to see these rates continue to decline, so that childbirth is safe for every woman around the world.

Author: Felicity Duong, intern at Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation

To help Hamlin Midwives continue to reduce maternal deaths in Ethiopia, please consider donating today.

More News