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A Global Effort to End Fistula

As well as leading the fight to end fistula in Ethiopia, Hamlin is part of a global network of partners collaborating to end fistula world-wide.

It is estimated that a staggering 500,000 women in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia are living with untreated fistula and each year a further 50,000 – 100,000 women develop a fistula.

Fistula is virtually non-existent in Europe and North America thanks to access to health care. However in poor, rural communities across almost 60 low income countries, limited access to maternal health services and poor infrastructure result in thousands of women suffering the pain and devastation of fistula.

Map of Fistula prevalence globally
Women are living with fistula in 60 countries in the global south

Too often women’s health is not at the forefront of international policy making. But a number of leading networks and organisations are standing up and advocating for change. International Day to End Obstetric Fistula was created by the United Nations to raise global awareness of the issue and is held each year on the 23 May.

The UN has adopted a General Resolution on Intensification of efforts to end obstetric fistula, and leading nonprofit organisations and UN agencies are working to tackle the underlying social determinants of fistula including child marriage and gender inequality.

Supporting surgeons from around the world

From our headquarters hospital in Addis Ababa, Hamlin is contributing to efforts to end fistula in other countries through training surgeons in best-practice fistula surgery techniques.

From the inception of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, surgeons visited Dr Catherine Hamlin to learn and Hamlin surgeons travelled abroad to provide training to surgeons around the world.

Since 2014, we have provided this training in partnership with the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) as part of the FIGO Fistula Training Initiative to increase the number of trained fistula surgeons around the world.

Globally, the FIGO Fistula Training Initiative has trained 65 surgeons and repaired 12,000 fistula injuries since 2012 when the programme began. Twenty-eight of these surgeons and six nurses from around the world have visited and trained at Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.

We recently welcomed Dr Atia Sharif Nadi from Afghanistan and Dr Shuvechchha Dewa Shresrha from Nepal, pictured, for six weeks’ training.

FIGO surgery trainees

“This is the best fistula centre I have known or heard of by far – I feel like I am in the perfect place to learn more. I wish I could stay longer”.

Dr Shresrha

Both doctors will return to their home countries next month to deliver and train others in best-practice surgical techniques to repair fistula injuries – bringing us one step closer to a world without fistula.

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