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 childbirth injury.
Dr Catherine Hamlin’s dream is to eradicate obstetric fistula forever, so that every woman can be free from these atrocious internal injuries.
Obstetric fistula can mostly be repaired with a single life-changing surgery.
Upon arrival at a Hamlin hospital, patients are embraced with tender loving care. They are given nutritious food, a handmade blanket and the empathy of staff – a number of whom 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.
Patients receive a customised program that includes nutrition, physiotherapy, counselling and rehabilitation.
Under Catherine’s leadership, the Hamlin Model of Care is focused on not just repairing the injury, but restoring dignity.
Click here to read the stories of some of our brave, beautiful patients.
With a success rate of around 95 percent, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is globally renowned for its treatment technique. So far, 24 surgeons from around the world have visited and trained at the hospital to learn this acclaimed best practice for fistula surgery.
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 – to name a but a few.
The life changing surgery restores their health and their dignity.
– Oprah Winfrey
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.
Today, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is fully staffed by over 550 Ethiopians who continue Catherine’s dream of transforming women’s care throughout Ethiopia.
All six hospitals are focused on the complete function of maternal health, including caesarean sections for returning fistula patients, fistula treatment surgeries and rehabilitation.
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Initially working from the Princess Tsehai Memorial Hospital in Addis Ababa, 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 first Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 1974.
After successfully treating obstetric fistula in Ethiopia for 60 years, in 2018 we will take Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s clinical skills, experience, and compassion to Uganda. Together with Terrewode the Hamlin team will develop a new specialist obstetric fistula treatment facility in Soroti, Uganda. The model in Uganda will be as it is in Ethiopia: treating and rehabilitating each patient back to a life lived with dignity. Click here for more information.
It is the emotional scars of shame and isolation that are often the hardest to treat with survivors of obstetric fistula. These women have been shunned by their husbands and families and discarded to live in isolation because of their putrid smell.
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 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.
Desta Mender is a farm and training facility, next to a mountain on the outskirts of Addis Ababa and given to Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia by the Ethiopian government. It has market gardens, an orchard and dairy farm, as well as the Juniper Cafe, where residents learn the secrets of the hospitality trade.
Desta Mender, meaning ‘Joy Village’ is where long-term patients live for a period of time. Here, they can access the medical care they need whilst gaining independence and learning new skills.
For those women that have been shunned from society, this is a critical aspect of rebuilding self-belief and harnessing their inner strength.
Read more about Desta Mender and Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration program.
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