The Need to Go Regional

For her 96th birthday this year, Catherine has one wish: to upgrade and stock urgently needed new equipment for Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s five regional hospitals. These hospitals were created to reach and treat as many women as possible.

When Australian obstetrician-gynaecologists Drs Reg and Catherine Hamlin first encountered an obstetric fistula patient in 1959, they were shocked. As they began to treat more patients – pioneering a modern fistula repair technique in the process – the Hamlins realised the need for speciality fistula hospitals in Ethiopia.

In 1974 Catherine and Reg opened the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital – the world’s first modern-day fistula hospital. Yet their work was not finished: one of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s biggest challenges has been finding and treating the thousands of isolated women living with fistula in remote parts of Ethiopia, where access to prenatal and perinatal care in rural Ethiopia is incredibly limited, resulting in higher rates of fistula cases. This is why between 2003 and 2010 Catherine established five strategically place regional fistula hospital to complement the work of Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital: Bahir Dar, Mekele, Yirgalem, Harar and Metu.

Bahir Dar

Hamlin’s Bahir Dar Fistula Hospital, located in the capital of the Amhara region, is approximately 540km north-west of Addis Ababa. Opened in 2007, the hospital has treated thousands of fistula patients from the Amhara region and reintegrated the majority of them back into their communities. Many of the staff at Bahir Dar are former patients who were trained by Hamlin’s senior doctors, including Catherine.


Hamlin’s Mekele Fistula Hospital was opened in February 2006. Strategically located in Mekele, the capital of the National Regional State of Tigray in the northern fringe of Ethiopia. The hospital also caters to patients form the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions. The Mekele Fistula Hospital’s dedicated health officer’s primary responsibility is to locate fistula patients in inaccessible parts of Tigray and to promote health education to prevent fistulas from occurring.


Located to the south of Addis Ababa, Hamlin’s Yirgalem Fistula Hospital has treated thousands of fistula patients from the Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) since its establishment in 2006. The staff at Yirgalem were taught at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and have a particular commitment to caring for impoverished women in the Sidoma zone of SNNPR.


In 2008, Catherine opened Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s fourth regional fistula hospital in Harar. Strategically located as Hamlin’s easternmost hospital, Harar is approximately 500km east of Addis Ababa. The Public Health Officer at Hamlin’s Harar Fistula Hospital works in Harar and the neighbouring regions to raise awareness of fistula.


Hamlin’s Metu Fistula Hospital was opened in 2010. Metu is situated along the Sor River, 600km south-west of Addis Ababa, in the Oromia region. The Metu hospital is of great importance in Oromia, where there is limited access to health facilities for its population of over 28 million people. The hospital also employs numerous teachers to teach literacy, provide health education and handicrafts training to fistula patients.

How you can help

Over 60 years and 60,000 patients later, the reach of Hamlin Fistula Hospitals and Hamlin-supported Midwifery Clinics is greater than ever. Through regional fistula hospitals, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is able to provide best-practice care to the most vulnerable women in Ethiopia.

Later this month, Catherine will celebrate her 96th birthday. Her one birthday wish this year is to raise $306,728 for urgently needed new equipment for the five regional fistula hospitals. The ability to upgrade and stock vital equipment helps the hospitals to continue to provide the best quality care and treatment for fistula patients.

Please consider donating today to support the life-changing work of Dr Catherine Hamlin and her team. Your support will help eradicate fistula. Forever. 

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