Hamlin Fistula Project Ethiopia

For those of us who have endured labour and the process involved with bringing a baby into this world, we know the experience is one that we will never forget. 5% of women in the world, who go through child birth will experience obstructed labour. In countries like Australia, this is treated with an emergency C-Section, but for pregnant women who live in places like rural Ethiopia there is little or no access to emergency obstetric services.

If they are among the five percent of women worldwide who will face obstructed labour, they will be in agonising labour for days and days. They almost always lose their baby and suffer horrific internal damage – sometimes the bladder is completely destroyed, sometimes the rectum is also damaged. They leak constantly and are pushed to the edge of their society, too filthy to be part of village life and considered a curse.

But there is hope. In the Ethiopian capital, there is a hospital especially for these, the most heartbreaking of patients. The Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and its five regional hospitals treat obstetric fistula patients free of charge, thanks to the generosity of donors. Australian obstetrician-gynaecologist 
Dr Catherine Hamlin AC is the co-founder of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and the Hamlin College of Midwives. In the 1950s Catherine and her late husband Reg went to Ethiopia to train midwives, but their attention soon turned to the plight of the fistula sufferers.

Together the Hamlins perfected the modern technique for obstetric fistula surgery and
 have treated more than 40,000 women, more than 90% of them cured. Reg died in 1993 but Catherine continues their life’s work, at 90 years of age. 


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