We exist to ensure the health and dignity of women who have survived a horrendous, and preventable, childbirth injury – obstetric fistula.
Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia takes a total care approach. One that seeks to repair, mend and heal all the scars – emotional and physical that come with this heartbreaking injury.
Dr Catherine Hamlin’s dream was to eradicate obstetric fistula forever, so that every woman can be free from this debilitating and isolating condition.
Obstetric fistula can mostly be repaired with a single life-changing fistula treatment surgery. For some, this can take no more than two hours. Click here to fund a standard fistula surgery at one of Hamlin’s regional hospitals in Ethiopia.
Upon arrival at a Hamlin hospital, patients are embraced with tender and loving care. They are given nutritious food, a handmade blanket and the empathy of staff – several of who are cured fistula patients themselves. For many patients, this would have been one of the first instances of emotional and physical support since their injury. In some cases women have lived with the condition, untreated for more than 40 years.
Patients receive a customised program that includes nutrition, physiotherapy, counselling and rehabilitation. It is not just about repairing the injury, but restoring dignity. Click here to read the stories of some of our brave, beautiful patients.
Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is globally renowned for its treatment technique. Surgeons from around the globe visit and train at the hospital to learn this acclaimed, world-best treatment.
Dr Hamlin’s pioneering surgical techniques have been recognised globally, including through the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Global Health Council for best practices in Global Health, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, the Distinguished Surgeon Award from the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons and the Australian Medical Association.
The life changing surgery restores their health and their dignity.
– Oprah Winfrey
Initially working from the Princess Tsehai Memorial Hospital in Addis Ababa, Drs Catherine and Reg Hamlin refined the surgical technique to repair obstetric fistula injuries, while continuing to treat a broad range of obstetric cases. Within the first three years, Reg and Catherine had operated on 300 fistula patients. As news of a cure spread, many more patients came seeking treatment.
To cater for the demand Catherine and Reg began fundraising and opened the now world renowned Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 1974.
Today, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is fully staffed by over 550 Ethiopians who continue Catherine’s legacy of transforming women’s care throughout Ethiopia.
In addition to Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, five regional hospitals have been established due to significant demand for fistula surgery. All six hospitals also provide a safe birthing facility where former patients can return for a clean, safe caesarean section delivery, free of charge. Click here to read about Hamlin hospital news.
Working with her [Catherine Hamlin] was a blessing. She made me look beyond surgical techniques and created an outstanding model on how to provide holistic and patient-centred care for these poor women.
– Dr Yeshineh Demerew, Medical Director at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia
Hamlin's Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital is the main fistula hospital located in the capital Addis Ababa, in the centre of the country. Built in 1974, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital has three wards, a large operating theatre, specialist clinics including a physiotherapy department, urodynamic and stoma clinic, pharmacy and pathology services. The hospital has a 120-bed capacity.
Hamlin’s Mekele Fistula Hospital was opened in February 2006. Strategically located in Mekele, the capital of the National Regional State of Tigray in the northern fringe of Ethiopia. The hospital also caters to patients form the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions. The Mekele Fistula Hospital’s dedicated health officer’s primary responsibility is to locate fistula patients in inaccessible parts of Tigray and to promote health education to prevent fistulas from occurring.
Located to the south of Addis Ababa, Hamlin’s Yirgalem Fistula Hospital has treated thousands of fistula patients from the Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) since its establishment in 2006. The staff at Yirgalem were taught at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and have a particular commitment to caring for impoverished women in the Sidoma zone of SNNPR.
Hamlin’s Bahir Dar Fistula Hospital, located in the capital of the Amhara region, is approximately 540km north-west of Addis Ababa. Opened in 2007, the hospital has treated thousands of fistula patients from the Amhara region and reintegrated the majority of them back into their communities. Many of the staff at Bahir Dar are former patients who were trained by Hamlin’s senior doctors, including Catherine.
In 2008, Catherine opened Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s fourth regional fistula hospital in Harar. Strategically located as Hamlin’s easternmost hospital, Harar is approximately 500km east of Addis Ababa. The Public Health Officer at Hamlin’s Harar Fistula Hospital works in Harar and the neighbouring regions to raise awareness of fistula.
Hamlin’s Mettu Fistula Hospital was opened in 2010. Mettu is situated along the Sor River, 600km south-west of Addis Ababa, in the Oromiya region. The Mettu hospital is of great importance in Oromiya, where there is limited access to health facilities for its population of over 28 million people. The hospital also employs numerous teachers to teach literacy, provide health education and handicrafts training to fistula patients.
It is the emotional scars of shame and isolation that are often the hardest to treat with survivors of obstetric fistula. These women have almost always been shunned by their husbands and families and discarded to live in isolation because of this putrid condition.
Catherine knew that any physical treatment had to come hand in hand with mending emotional scars. Restoring the dignity of women who have suffered from the humiliation of a fistula injury is paramount to obstetric fistula rehabilitation.
Women are provided with physiotherapy, counselling, embraced in a warm blanket and given a new dress once they depart back to their homes. Patients are also provided with literacy and numeracy classes.
And beyond the emotional and physical mending of scars and injury, patients are also supported with income-generating training and placements.