Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is a registered charitable organisation in Ethiopia dedicated to the treatment and prevention of childbirth injuries called obstetric fistulas. Drs Catherine and Reg Hamlin founded this organisation in 1974 after being confronted with the tragic situation of Ethiopian women suffering from obstetric fistulas.
Obstetric fistula (or vaginal fistula) is a medical condition in which a fistula (hole) develops between the rectum and vagina (rectovaginal fistula) or between the bladder and vagina (vesicovaginal fistula). This occurs following prolonged obstructed childbirth, when adequate health and medical care has not been available.
Symptoms of an obstetric fistula are urinary and/or fecal incontinence that can lead to severe infections and ulcerations of the vaginal tract. Some patients suffer from paralysis caused by nerve damage. Sufferers of obstetric fistula are often subject to severe social stigma due to their smell, perceptions of uncleanliness, a mistaken assumption of venereal disease and, in some cases, infertility. Nearly all patients at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital report psychological issues associated with their condition. Many marriages do not survive, simply unable to cope with the ongoing physical and emotional health issues.
Obstetric fistula patients report that, on average, the nearest health facility is two days walk away from their homes. This trek is often done alone. Many women will stuff their clothes with rags to prevent leakage caused by the fistula. All of the women risk ridicule and humiliation on their journey to be cured.
Ethiopian women are actively involved in all aspects of their society’s life. Women are both producers and procreators and they are also active participants in the social, political, and cultural activities of their communities. Obstetric fistula not only disables the woman in so many ways, the entire village feels the effects. Women with obstetric fistula are often outcast and therefore unproductive, their family and community suffer. By treating an obstetric fistula patient, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is helping to rehabilitate communities as well.
An obstetric fistula can be cured with specialist surgery. When a skilled surgeon performs the surgery, a fistula patient has a good chance of returning to a normal life with full control of her bodily functions. Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has a 95% closure rate.
Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is a world-class centre of excellence for treating obstetric fistula patients and training obstetricians to specialise in this surgery. Rehabilitation programs assist former patients to reintegrate to village life. The organisation also has a preventative strategy that aims to eradicate obstetric fistula from Ethiopia by providing trained midwives in the rural regions of the country.
Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia provides stable employment for many local Ethiopians while also providing much-needed health services for the women and girls of Ethiopia. Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s work on the ground in Ethiopia is sustainable and enriching – run by Ethiopians, for Ethiopians. The legacy of Drs. Reginald and Catherine Hamlin has a strong and vibrant future.
In Ethiopia alone there are an estimated 39,000 women suffering with untreated fistulas and an additional 3,700 develop fistulas each year. Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has treated more than 50,000 patients with a success rate over 95%. Fistulas can be prevented with adequate emergency obstetric care when complications arise.At the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, the cost of a standard fistula operation is US$600. This provides each woman with a fistula repair, high quality post-operative care, good nutritious food, a new dress and her bus fare home.
Donations to this project will be used for medical supplies, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals.