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 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.
Chaltu doesn’t know when her birthday is; she estimates that she is 20 years old. Unfortunately, Chaltu does know, all too well, the agony of obstetric fistula. Chaltu’s story is far too common in remote Ethiopia: a lack of resources and information condemning women to suffer the preventable tragedy of fistula. Chaltu did not know the importance of visiting a medical clinic during pregnancy and without access to vital health care, she suffered an agonising fistula injury. After a year of pain and isolation, Chaltu was treated at Hamlin where, with a full recovery, she feels reborn.
How is it prevented?
In Australia, 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.
Having access to a well-trained midwife and an emergency caesarean delivery can prevent obstetric fistula in the first place. Read about our prevention program here.
We won’t stop until every woman is found and treated. Click here to give a gift that will help our team identify untreated fistula patients in isolated parts of Ethiopia.
Australian surgeon Dr Catherine Hamlin was a pioneer in the treatment of obstetric fistulas. Her dream was 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.
Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia have treated more than 60,000 Ethiopian women with fistula injuries, restoring their health and dignity.
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.