Last week we lost one of the world’s great humanitarians, Dr Catherine Hamlin. Dr Hamlin was the co-founder of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia and a pioneer in obstetric fistula surgery. Catherine passed away peacefully at her home on the grounds of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia on Wednesday March 18th, 2020. She was 96 years old. You can read the full obituary here.
As we reflect on Catherine’s passing, we also celebrate the gift of her life: caring for the most vulnerable women in the world. The impact of Catherine’s work was felt across the globe; her dedication and selflessness motivated many to strive for greater kindness and opened the world’s eyes to the plight of women suffering from obstetric fistula.
Catherine dedicated 61 of her 96 years to caring for fistula patients in Ethiopia. In that time, she and her team established six fistula hospitals, over 50 Hamlin-supported midwifery clinics, a rehabilitation and reintegration centre and the Hamlin College of Midwives. To date, 60,000 Ethiopian women have had their fistula injuries repaired at Hamlin.
Today, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is a healthcare network of over 550 Ethiopian staff who continue Catherine’s legacy. Hamlin is the reference organisation and leader in the fight to eradicate obstetric fistula around the world, blazing a trail for holistic treatment and care that empowers women to reassert their humanity, secure their health and well-being, and regain their roles in their families and communities.
Tributes flow as everyone remembers Catherine
Catherine’s determination, resilience, humility and compassion inspired thousands. Over the years, many of her supporters have paid tribute to Catherine: the woman, the advocate, the pioneering doctor. Below is a selection of quotes from friends and admirers of Catherine:
“I loved her and all she stood for. Faith, hope and charity; a golden life of service, selflessness, accomplishment.” – Dame Quentin Bryce, former Governor-General of Australia
“Thank you Catherine for the vast legacy you leave for the women and girls of Ethiopia and the world. You were the best of humanity and very special. We all must continue carrying your mission forward. Rest in peace, my dear sister!” – Dr Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of the World Health Organisation
“Ethiopia lost a true gem who dedicated more than 60 years to restoring the dignity of thousands of women.” – Abiy Ahmed Ali, Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
“She truly was a modern saint. Rest in peace, Catherine.” – Nick Kristof, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist
“God bless you [Catherine] for the work that you do.” – Oprah Winfrey, media executive and philanthropist
“I have met so many angels here in Ethiopia and one of them is Dr Catherine Hamlin. She has done so much for the women of Ethiopia and it was a great experience to meet and talk to her.” – Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark
“She was a living saint who worked tirelessly and selflessly to help women with Obstetric Fistula. She dedicated her life to eradicating it in Ethiopia. I was lucky enough to celebrate with her on her 71st birthday while on a field trip in Ethiopia… and I’ll never forget how inspired I was by her and her commitment to these women. We will miss you Catherine. Rest in Peace. Thank you for all you have done!!! We will all do our part to carry on your mission.” – Natalie Imbruglia, Australian singer-songwriter
Leave your own tribute to Catherine
Catherine’s legacy will live on for years to come; her selfless example will continue to inspire people all over the world. If you would like to leave your own tribute to Catherine, please click here.