Posted on

The small rural village in Southern Ethiopia that Astegn, 22, grew up in is not only a two-day bus journey from Addis Ababa – but also a two day walk from the nearest main road. Public services such as health care could not be more remote for her family of eight siblings and her parents, who are subsistence farmers living in poverty.

When she was 18 years old Astegn was kidnapped by a much older man for a forced marriage. This was an old traditional way of marriage practised in rural Ethiopia which is now illegal; however, after negotiations with the man, Astegn and her family agreed to the marriage. She told us in time she grew to enjoy married life and when she was 19, she was happy to find out she was pregnant.

Her pregnancy progressed well. However, when the time came for the birth, her labour lasted an agonizing seven days. With no professional health care in the village, she tragically suffered a stillbirth, as well as a double fistula, leg injury and severe back pain. Astegn stayed like this, incontinent, unmoving, in her bed for 18 months.

“My step-mom and my father were always there by my side cleaning, moving and feeding me every day, all day. My days were full of sorrow. I cried day and night and sometimes wished to die rather than living in such agony” she told us.

In time, a health professional trained in fistula patient identification arrived at Astegn’s village and found her, and made the arrangements for Astegn to be taken to Yirgalem Regional Fistula Hospital.

She received a year of rehabilitation and physiotherapy at Yirgalem before she was fit for surgery, which she has now had. Surgery has given Astegn her life back and she is now at Desta Mender, Hamlin’s rehabilitation centre, receiving counselling and training in business and life skills to empower her to start an independent life.

“Look at me, who could believe this. I am a different person now.  My life is totally transformed. You have fixed my physical problems and now you are fixing my social problems.  My future plan is to go back to my village and open a small merchandising shop. I am more inspired now to become successful in business and lead a happy independent life.”


Recent News

A message for our Knitters – COVID-19

30th March 2020

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic our administrative team are working from home and not able to access our UK office as frequently as before….

Remembering our founder: Catherine Hamlin 1924 – 2020

19th March 2020

Dr Catherine HamlinJanuary 24th 1924 – March 18th 2020 It is with deep sadness we share the news of the passing of Dr Catherine Hamlin,…

Treated with love: Buritu’s journey with Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia

6th August 2020

Buritu is from a remote village in Southern Ethiopia’s Sidama region, where she works farming her family’s small plot of land. She had an arranged…

Creating a greener Ethiopia, one tree at a time

6th August 2020

Last month, staff at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia held their annual Tree Planting Ceremony at Hamlin’s Desta Mender Rehabilitation Centre on the outskirts of Addis Ababa….

Celebrating #SmallCharitiesWeek 2020!

19th June 2020

This Small Charities Week we are celebrating the BIG impact made by so many small charities across the UK and around the world! Hamlin Fistula…