We believe in a world where all women are able to deliver their babies safely and where childbirth injuries are a thing of the past.
We have all come into this world because of a mother. And we believe every mother 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 childbirth that leaves her incontinent, humiliated and lingering with a horrible odour. A 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.
93% of obstetric fistula survivors give birth to a stillborn baby.
How is it prevented?
Imagine suffering the most horrendous internal injury just because you are a woman without access to effective maternal healthcare. It’s almost unthinkable, yet each year, 350,000 women around the world die as a result of complications from pregnancy and childbirth.
With the right access to maternal healthcare, these horrific childbirth injuries are entirely preventable. In fact, in western countries, obstetric fistulas are virtually a thing of the past.
But in rural Ethiopia, where women have little or no access to maternal healthcare, they will be in agonising labour for days if their birth is obstructed. They almost always lose their baby and suffer horrific internal damage – sometimes the bladder is completely destroyed, sometimes the rectum is also damaged.
Having access to a well-trained midwife and an emergency caesarean section can prevent these injuries in the first place.
The Hamlin Fistula hospitals and programs in Ethiopia have a very clear goal: working to eradicate the most horrific childbirth injury, obstetric fistula – and we won’t stop until this is done.
Catherine Hamlin is a pioneer in the treatment of obstetric fistulas. She still has the same adventurous spirit that took her to Ethiopia almost 60 years ago.
Her dream is to end obstetric fistula in Ethiopia. And she knows she can’t do it alone!
My dream is to eradicate obstetric fistula from Ethiopia. I won’t do this in my lifetime, but you can in yours.
– Catherine Hamlin
What happens to women suffering from obstetric fistula?
The physical consequences of a childbirth injury are devastating and debilitating. The hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum leaves survivors leaking urine or faeces, and sometimes both – through their vagina. But if that wasn’t horrific enough, it is the social isolation, stigma and loss of dignity that leaves the most damaging scars.
Because of the shame associated with their smell, these women are isolated and pushed to the edge of their society – forgotten and invisible.
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.”
– Catherine Hamlin
These women are the lepers of the 21st century, and although the condition is almost entirely preventable, it is still a huge public health issue in Ethiopia.
Survivors, often voiceless and marginalised, tend to live in impoverished countries, with the common thread of being poor, rural and female.