Treatment Program

“To see a girl from abject poverty and sadness and sorrow suddenly become a new person, that’s the joy that fistula surgeons get when they cure them.” 

– Dr Catherine Hamlin

Restoring health and dignity with Treatment 

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia exists to ensure the health and dignity of women who have survived a horrendous, and preventable, childbirth injury: obstetric fistula.

In most cases a fistula can be repaired with a single life-changing surgery that, for some, can take as little as two hours. 

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is globally renowned for its fistula treatment technique. Developed by Dr Catherine Hamlin, this pioneering surgical technique has been recognised as a best practice in global health by leading organisations like the Australian Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Global Health Council, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons

To date, over 70,000 Ethiopian women have had their health and dignity restored at Hamlin. 

Click here to read our latest Impact Report.

Hamlin’s Fistula Hospitals

Initially working from the Princess Tsehai Memorial Hospital in Addis Ababa, Drs Reg and Catherine 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 Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s world-renowned Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 1974.

In addition to Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Catherine went on to establish five regional fistula hospitals throughout Ethiopia to ensure access for women in remote areas. 

All six Hamlin fistula hospitals also provide a birthing facility where former patients can return for a safe caesarean delivery, free of charge, thanks to generous donors. 

Addis Ababa – 1974

Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital is the main fistula hospital located in the capital Addis Ababa, in the centre of Ethiopia. Built in 1974, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital has three wards, a large operating theatre, specialist clinics including a physiotherapy department, urodynamic and stoma clinic, pharmacy and pathology services. The hospital has a 120-bed capacity.

Mekele – 2006

Hamlin’s Mekele Fistula Hospital was opened in February 2006. Strategically located in Mekele, in the northern fringe of Ethiopia, the hospital also caters to patients from the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions. Mekele Fistula Hospital’s dedicated health officer’s primary responsibility is to locate fistula patients in inaccessible parts of Tigray and to promote health education to prevent fistulas from occurring. 

Over the past two years, unrest in this region has meant the temporary closure of Hamlin’s Mekele Fistula Hospital. Despite the challenges our team has been in recent contact with Mekele and managed to transfer funds to the hospital in July 2022. Due to the conflict, there will be much unmet need in the area. Our Clinical Team is committed to improving the situation and ready to help using all available opportunities. 

Yirgalem – 2006

Located to the south of Addis Ababa, Hamlin’s Yirgalem Fistula Hospital has treated thousands of fistula patients from the Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) since its establishment in 2006. The staff at Yirgalem were taught at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and have a particular commitment to caring for impoverished women in the Sidoma zone of SNNPR. 

Bahir Dar – 2007

Hamlin’s Bahir Dar Fistula Hospital, located in the capital of the Amhara region, is approximately 540km north-west of Addis Ababa. Opened in 2007, the hospital has treated thousands of fistula patients from the Amhara region and reintegrated the majority of them back into their communities. Many of our staff at Bahir Dar are former patients who were trained by Hamlin’s senior doctors, including Dr Catherine Hamlin. 

Harar – 2008

In 2008, Dr Catherine Hamlin opened Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s fourth regional fistula hospital in Harar. Strategically located as Hamlin’s easternmost hospital, Harar is approximately 500km east of Addis Ababa. The Public Health Officer at Hamlin’s Harar Fistula Hospital works in Harar and the neighbouring regions to raise awareness of fistula.

Metu – 2010

Hamlin’s Metu Fistula Hospital was opened in 2010. Metu is situated along the Sor River, 600km southwest of Addis Ababa, in the Oromia region. The Metu hospital is of great importance in Oromia, where there is limited access to health facilities for its population of over 35 million people. The hospital also employs numerous teachers to teach literacy, provide health education and handicrafts training to fistula patients.

Hamlin’s Patient Identification Outreach Program 

Today, it is estimated that 31,000 women in Ethiopia are living with an obstetric fistula injury. Many of these women are physically and socially isolated, left to suffer – hidden and alone. 

Hamlin’s Patient Identification Outreach Program is focused on finding these women in remote areas of Ethiopia. Our dedicated Patient Identification Officers go door to door, village to village to locate women. Through media campaigns and educating communities, women are then linked with life-changing treatment at one of Hamlin’s regional fistula hospitals. 

In 2020, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia and UNFPA Ethiopia formed a partnership to combine efforts to identify and treat women who have suffered a fistula injury or uterine prolapse. You can read more about the partnership here.

Hamlin’s Clinical Team 

Today, our team at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia consists of over 550 people who continue Dr Catherine Hamlin’s legacy of transforming maternal healthcare for women.

Hamlin is the reference organisation and leader in the fight to eradicate obstetric fistula around the world, blazing a trail for holistic treatment and care that empowers women to reassert their humanity, secure their health and well-being, and regain their roles in their families and communities.

Click here to meet some members of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s Clinical Team. 

Treatment Training Partnerships 

Surgeons from around the globe visit and train at Hamlin’s hospitals to learn this acclaimed, world-best treatment. You can learn more about the FIGO Fistula Training Initiative here.

Since 2015 Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia joined with Mekelle University to create the Urogynecology Fellowship Program. The program provides surgeons with advanced, specialised skills to treat complex, urogynecology conditions. Read more here.  Please note the program has been on temporary hold, however is expected to resume soon following new peace deals in the area.