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In Australia, there are 250 physicians per 100,000 people. In Ethiopia, there are 3.Only 1 in 10 women will have their birth attended to by a skilled professional. As a result, more than 9,000 women each year develop the horrific and debilitating childbirth complication known as obstetric fistula
ETHIOPIAID'S AIM: To work with our partners Women and Health Alliance (WAHA) and Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia to eradicate obstetric fistula by 2020.
An obstetric fistula occurs during childbirth when the mother’s body is too immature or undernourished to allow the baby to travel through the birth canal easily. A lack of knowledge and available medical services mean that the woman is usually alone for the birth. If the labour is prolonged and complicated this can result in a stillborn child and a fistula for the mother. A fistula is caused when the pressure of the baby’s head obstructs the flow of blood to tissue in the neither regions. This tissue, between the uterus and the bladder and/or the rectum, dies and leaves a hole–this is called a fistula.
Fortunately, obstetric fistula is a curable and highly preventable condition. To repair existing obstetric fistula cases, and to prevent new cases from occurring, Ethiopiaid has partnered with two organisations, Women and Health Alliance (WAHA) and Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, an organisation founded and run by Australian Dr Catherine Hamlin.
Women and Health Alliance (WAHA): A beacon for women in need
WAHA works in three locations across Ethiopia with the mission to increase access to quality maternal health care; particularly emergency obstetric care. Headed by the remarkable Dr Mulu Muleta, WAHA provides free obstetric fistula repair surgeries to some of Ethiopia's most marginalized women. The operation itself only takes a few hours. WAHA provide quality pre and post operative care, medicine, fluids and nutrition; nursing the woman back to health. Within weeks she can return to her community, ready to embrace her second chance at life. WAHA's staff are working tirelessly to locate and help these women suffering from this debilitating condition, located in some of the most rural and isolated areas of Ethiopia. Ethiopiaid Australia is also supporting a program to train more local health staff to treat and rehabilitate women suffering from obstetric fistula, run by WAHA at Gondar University's Teaching Hospital. In order to help prevent new cases from occurring, WAHA trains former fistula patients to become Health Extension Workers; fuelled with the knowledge to return to their communities and teach other women about the risk of obstetric fistula and the importance of having their births in a hospital.
Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia: Helping women regain their lives
Since moving to Ethiopia in 1959, Australian's Dr Catherine Hamlin and her husband, Dr Reg Hamlin, have been undertaking incredible work to save the lives of obstretic fistula sufferers from all across the country. For more than five decades, Dr Hamlin has tirelessly worked to provide Ethiopian women with a second chance, and Ethiopiaid Australia is proud to have been supporting her since 2012. Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia treats over 3000 obstetric fistula patients each year between its hospital in Addis Ababa and its five provincial centres in the countryside. Ethiopiaid Australia assists with funding the Hamlin Metu Fistula Centre; a rural hospital based in Metu that treats women suffering from obstetric fistula in a remote and isolated region of the country.
Women leave WAHA and Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia's hospitals with their lives transformed. They are able to return to their families and their communities, happy and proud. Many of them can try for another baby; and this time, they know that they can return to the hospitals for a safe and supervised birth.
- At least 90% of obstetric fistula surgeries are treated successfully at WAHA's hospitals. More than 800 fistula surgeries are undertaken each year by Dr Mulu and her team, with WAHA's capacity to treat more women increasing as more skilled professionals complete their training at Gondar University, and more suffering women are located by Health Extension Workers.
- The Hamlin Metu Fistula Centre is an oasis in an incredibly remote region of the country, providing rural woman free fistula surgeries and a second chance at life. Ethiopiaid Australia is working with the centre to overcome their biggest obstacle: identifying and reaching out to affected women in an area that is rugged, occasionally unstable and sometimes inaccessible.