Opening Desta Mender

Dr Catherine Hamlin always maintained that it was essential to not only treat a fistula but to treat the patient as a whole; that is why she opened Desta Mender in 2002. Desta Mender is Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration Centre where long-term fistula patients with severe injuries can continue to heal. Desta Mender means ‘Joy Village’ in Amharic – the joy that returns to obstetric fistula patients as they undergo treatment, physiotherapy, counselling and more, is priceless.

Establishing a place of recovery

Desta Mender was built on land donated by the Ethiopian Government, approximately ten kilometres from the hospital. It is a farm and residential facility next to a mountain on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Catherine’s brother Jock and his wife Louise were integral to the establishment of Desta Mender. Experienced farmers, Jack and Louise arrived in Ethiopia and quickly got to work setting up generators, clean water supplies and a dairy farm, all so that the longer-term patients would receive the care they needed. They organised for teachers to come and show patients how to work in the garden and give them skills with which they could build hope and an identity far beyond life as a fistula sufferer.

Jock and Louise’s work in setting up Desta Mender was the first step in the development of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration program. The opening of Desta Mender was made possible by a sister sharing her work and inspiring her family.

Learn more about the resilient women who have gone through Desta Mender by reading their patient stories here.

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