For Australian women, it is almost unimaginable to give birth alone, with no hospital, no medical clinic or no midwife.
For approximately 50% of Ethiopian women, it’s their reality. Thousands of women in Ethiopia living in rural areas are being denied access to quality maternal healthcare. This results in preventable childbirth injuries like obstetric fistula that have devastating consequences for women like Genet.
A tragic birth
Genet lives in Rama, a town at the northern tip of Ethiopia in the Tigray region. Like many pregnant women living in remote parts of Ethiopia, Genet laboured at home without a midwife to help her. Her local health centre had been forced to close during the brutal conflict which ravaged the region.
After enduring an agonising obstructed labour, Genet’s baby was stillborn. Three days later, leaking urine and faeces uncontrollably, she was told she had sustained a double obstetric fistula injury.
For almost three years, Genet lived in agony and shame. She could not access treatment as hospitals and health centres in Rama had been forced to close during the war.
The past two years was the most difficult time in life. I still feel the pain when thinking about it.-Genet
The skills and dedication of a Hamlin Midwife could have prevented Genet from needlessly suffering and saved her baby’s life.
Dr Catherine Hamlin’s vision was to ensure every woman in Ethiopia has access to quality maternal healthcare so they can deliver their baby safely. We need to recruit and train more Hamlin Midwives to identify complications in pregnancy and childbirth and prevent obstetric fistulas.
Training women as midwives
The Hamlin College of Midwives is a centre of excellence in midwifery training. Each student completes a rigorous 4-year BSc Midwifery degree and is on a full Hamlin scholarship, funded by generous supporters. Upon graduating, Hamlin Midwives are deployed to rural areas where their skills are urgently needed.
Through Project Zero, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s new program to accelerate eradication of fistula, the Hamlin College of Midwives is being expanded to accommodate an increasing number of midwifery students.
A fistula-free future
The ultimate goal is to establish a midwifery clinic in every woreda (district), staffed by Hamlin Midwives and embed a comprehensive antenatal program to ensure every pregnant woman delivers her baby safely.
The impact of a Hamlin Midwife is extraordinary. When she arrives, new cases of fistula drop to almost zero in nearby villages.
Last year, Hamlin Midwives delivered 18,606 babies and prevented countless fistulas and neonatal deaths. There was not one maternal death in a clinic where a Hamlin Midwife was placed.
When health services reopened in Genet’s town, health professionals told her about Hamlin’s Mekele Fistula Hospital. There, she received transformative surgery and care.
Soon after I came here at Hamlin and see other women like me, I got relieved and felt hopeful of getting cured. When I am back to home after cure I plan to open a small shop and live an independent life.– Genet
You can help stop the unnecessary suffering of women like Genet by helping recruit, train and deploy more Hamlin Midwives , who are pivotal to the eradication of fistula.