We believe no woman should suffer the indignity of an obstetric fistula.
We have all come into this world because of a woman. And we believe every woman should be able to deliver her baby safely and without harm.
What is an obstetric fistula?
One of the worst things that can happen to a woman or girl is an obstetric fistula, an internal injury caused by an obstructed labour during childbirth that leaves her incontinent, humiliated and often cut off from her community. An obstetric fistula is a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum. It leaves survivors leaking urine or faeces – and sometimes both – through their vagina.
Tragically, 93% of obstetric fistula survivors give birth to a stillborn baby, often after an agonising obstructed birth lasting days.
How is it prevented?
In Western countries, obstetric fistulas are virtually a thing of the past because there is access to effective maternal healthcare.
In countries like Ethiopia, more than 70% of births take place without a doctor or nurse present and more than 3000 fistulas occur each year. Imagine suffering for days through an excruciating obstructed labour, losing your baby and then suffering the most horrendous internal injury. Just because you are a woman without access to effective maternal healthcare.
With the right access to maternal healthcare, this horrific childbirth injury is entirely preventable.
Yet today in Uganda it is estimated as many as 200,000 women are suffering with an obstetric fistula and there are 1900 new cases every year.
Having access to a well-trained midwife and an emergency caesarean section can prevent obstetric fistula in the first place. Read about our prevention program here.
Her dream is to eradicate obstetric fistula forever, so that every woman can be free from these atrocious internal injuries.
My dream is to eradicate obstetric fistula. I won’t do this in my lifetime, but you can in yours.
– Dr Catherine Hamlin
These women have suffered more than any woman should be called upon to endure. To meet only one is to be profoundly moved and calls forth the utmost compassion that the human heart is capable of feeling.”
– Dr Catherine Hamlin
Women living with an obstetric fistula are the lepers of the 21st century, and although the condition is almost entirely preventable, it is still a huge public health issue. Survivors, often voiceless and marginalised, tend to live in impoverished countries, with the common thread of being poor, rural and female.
Since starting her work in Ethiopia, Dr Hamlin and the team at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia have treated close to 55,000 women. The model of care has been so successful it is now expanding into Uganda.
The women who receive this life-changing treatment are often too poor to pay. Their treatment is offered free, thanks to a movement of people who donate in order to realise the dream of eradicating obstetric fistula. Forever.