A woman’s fistula injury is not the end of her story.

Sometimes surgery is not enough to heal women suffering with an obstetric fistula. Survivors have suffered real trauma. Many women cannot return to their communities and few have an income that allows them to live independently.

In 2002, Dr Catherine Hamlin founded Desta Mender (‘Joy Village’), a recovery centre where long-term fistula patients with severe injuries can continue to heal. Hamlin’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration Program at Desta Mender helps fistula patients who have been shunned from society. The program offers counselling, literacy and numeracy classes as well as vocational and life skills training. The team supports women to find sustainable employment or to establish and run their own small businesses upon reintegration back into their communities.

Rehabilitation and Reintegration

A dark time

Imagine yourself as a young woman, lying in a bed, incontinent of urine and faeces and unable to move your legs. You have lived like this for almost two years, ever since a traumatic weeklong labour, which resulted in a stillborn baby and a double fistula.

“I would cry day and night and sometimes wish to die rather than live in such agony.” – Liya

This was Liya’s life two years ago.

Liya’s world has been turned around

Following surgery at Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Liya completed vocational training at Desta Mender. With help from Hamlin’s reintegration team, she is now working towards opening her own shop.

“My plan is to go back to my village and open a small merchandising shop which I will be running according to the business skills I acquired here at Desta Mender. I am more inspired now to become successful in the business and lead a happy, independent life.” – Liya

Rehabilitation and Reintegration
Rehabilitation and Reintegration


To send women home to experience a normal life, after all they have suffered, is the greatest reward we can have.”

– Dr Catherine Hamlin

Help a woman like Liya thrive

Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation has one purpose and one purpose only: eradicating fistula. Forever.