Dr Catherine Hamlin

Dr Catherine Hamlin

Dr Catherine Hamlin wrote to thank our donors for their generosity in December 2016:

“I am so grateful to all the supporters who continue to give us funds to run our hospital. Fistula is a tragic injury that causes enormous sadness. The women often have to live alone and their lives are very tragic but they can be cured and many of them have become wonderful citizens of Ethiopia and are helping others with similar birth injuries. Things are improving as we have many more doctors going out in to the rural areas to identify patients. I hope one day there won’t be any more fistula cases in Ethiopia and it will be like the so called developed world. I am so grateful for your interest in our work as it is seldom talked about. It is work I enjoy very much and although I am retired I still get great joy from seeing women cured and I continue to live in the grounds of the hospital. Thank you for your wonderful donations and for all you are doing for us.


Ever since I first encountered the heartbreaking reality of fistula injuries for young women in Ethiopia, I have been working hard to try and bring about an end to their suffering by providing life changing treatment so that - one day - we can eradicate this terrible injury.

Obstetric fistula injuries usually occur because the pelvis is too small for a baby to pass through or the baby is in a position which cannot be born without the position being corrected! These are the two main causes of obstructed labour. These poor women suffer prolonged and crippling pain. Eventually, the baby dies and after death becomes smaller and is able to be expelled by its exhausted mother - a still born child.

In itself, this is a terrible tragedy. But the humiliation that follows is just as difficult to imagine. During this process of obstructed labour, a hole can form in the bladder or the rectum or both. This is what we call a fistula injury, and it leaves the mother unable to control her bodily waste.

She has lost a child. She is in great distress and now she has urine running down her legs. She may even be rejected by her community because of the smell that now is with her always. This should never be allowed to happen to a woman – for her to be isolated and alone!

Fistula injuries are curable - and in our six hospitals across Ethiopia we have treated over 40,000 women with a closure rate of over 90% - but with the proper antenatal care provided by trained midwives fistulas are preventable.

The Hamlin College of Midwives provide a 4-year Bachelor’s degree course to women from rural Ethiopia and deploys them back to their villages where they can serve their communities. Highly trained midwives can attend deliveries and refer complicated cases to a nearby hospital for help where patients may have a caesarean section.  

Imagine how many newborn's lives and women’s futures we could save if we could place a trained midwife in every village in Ethiopia. One midwife may help to deliver thousands of healthy children in her career.

It is my dream to see this happen and put an end to obstetric fistula injuries.

Dr Catherine Hamlin

Co-founder, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia


If you would like to help Dr Hamlin in achieving her dream, please click here to donate.

Related Work: Maternal Health