Abebech’s story

Abebech lived in a remote area of Ethiopia. When she went into labour at home like 50% of women in Ethiopia, she planned to give birth at home with no medical care. Unfortunately, Abebech’s labour did not progress smoothly and instead her painful, obstructed labor went on for five days. With no medical support available, she finally gave birth to a stillborn baby and was left with a devastating obstetric fistula and leaking urine. 

A devasting but preventable injury

An obstetric fistula is an internal injury caused by an unrelieved obstructed labour during childbirth. A fistula is an internal injury in the form of a hole between the birth canal and the bladder and/or rectum. It leaves women leaking urine or faeces, and sometimes both.

Tragically, 93% of women, who suffer an obstetric fistula will give birth to a stillborn baby, often after an agonising obstructed labour that has lasted several days. 

Abebech, like the thousands of women who suffer from an obstetric fistula, stayed home rather than risk public humiliation. She felt unclean, unwanted and unloved.

“I was afraid to go outside. My neighbors covered their noses when I went out,” said Abebech.

For the next 27 years, Abebech lived in pain and shame. There are around 31, 000 women like Abebech in Ethiopia who are living with untreated fistula injuries. 

The Hamlin Patient Identification Officer

Abebech was finally found by a Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia patient identification officer who brought her to Hamlin’s Yirgalem fistula hospital for treatment and care. It was here that she received the love, care and treatment she needed. 

A journey to healing

Every year 1000 women suffer from these debilitating injuries. Treatment is often a simple surgery but these women also need psychological care and rehabilitation because the impact of an obstetric fistula goes much deeper than physical injuries. It often also carries the grief of losing a child and the trauma of isolation and shame. The Hamlin Model of Care is the model used at Hamlin fistula hospitals and it was developed by Dr Catherine Hamlin over 63 years ago. The Model is now the world’s leading approach to treating fistula as it considers the whole person with respect and compassion – treating the physical, psychological and emotional effects of fistula.

You can support women like Abebech by funding a Comfort Package for her to receive basic necessities on her arrival at a Hamlin fistula hospital. 

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