Maternal Health

In Australia, there are 250 physicians per 100,000 people. In Ethiopia, there are 3. Barely 16% of women will have their birth attended to by a skilled professional. As a result, more than 3,000 women each year develop the horrific and debilitating childbirth injury known as obstetric fistula.

Maternal Health

OUR AIM: Increase access to quality maternal health and safe childbirth, and help eradicate fistula throughout Ethiopia

Our Solution

What is obstetric fistula?

An obstetric fistula is a hole that forms in a woman’s bladder or rectum that is caused by obstructed labour during childbirth. It occurs when a mother’s body is too immature or undernourished to give birth easily. Usually the baby will be stillborn. The mother often finds she has developed incontinence and is ostracised from her community, forced to live alone and in shame.

Even worse? Fistula is both curable and preventable! No woman should have to experience this. 

How you’re helping improve maternal health & eradicate fistula across Ethiopia

We are partnered with two local organisations dedicated to maternal health; the Women & Health Alliance (WAHA) operating across north, central and south-western Ethiopia and Healing Hands of Joy based in northern Ethiopia. They are working tirelessly to fix fistulas, help survivors regain their independence, and prevent fistulas from happening in the first place.  

  • Treat

    • WAHA focuses more closely on the treatment of fistula. WAHA provides free obstetric fistula repair operations, including counselling and physiotherapy, to women in need throughout their three hospitals
    • Transport patients to and from the hospital and their home village where possible
    • Healing Hands of Joy works to identify women living with fistula in isolated areas and refer them to the nearest quality hospital or health centre for treatment

  • Prevent

    • Both WAHA and Healing Hands of Joy train fistula patients to become advocates of women’s health; named Health Extension Workers or Safe Motherhood Ambassadors respectively
    • These Extension Workers and Ambassadors help identify cases of fistula, spread information on maternal health in rural areas and provide antenatal care such as blood tests for haemoglobin, HIV, anaemia etc.
    • Healing Hands of Joy runs community workshops and men-only workshops to sensitise people about fistula, reduce its stigma in society and teach people how to support women living with it
    • WAHA regularly trains more clinical staff (junior obstetricians/gynaecologists, residents, midwives, GPs) to aid in and perform fistula operations

  • Reintegrate

    • WAHA runs a 3-month craft training programs for patients (weaving, pottery and basketry) to learn new employable skills so they can become financially independent
    • Healing Hands of Joy helps fistula patients get jobs or provides a small loan to help them start their own business, especially if they have spent many years being denied employment because of their fistula status

Our Impact

How you’ve helped already: Berhan’s Story

Five years ago, Berhan was in agonising pain.

She had been living with obstetric fistula for nine months following the birth of her fifth child. Today, not only has Berhan received a much-needed operation to repair the fistula, she is also one of the most active and successful Safe Motherhood Ambassadors! 

Through Healing Hands of Joy, Berhan was referred to the Hamlin Centre in Mekelle for treatment. Following her operation and rehabilitation, Berhan decided to train as a Safe Motherhood Ambassador. 

Berhan now travels from village to village to give personal advice and information to women on safe pregnancy and childbirth – information they often would not have access to otherwise. She’ll check in on expectant mothers regularly, provide antenatal care such as blood tests for HIV, and will often accompany a woman in labour to the hospital in the ambulance, especially if she’s never travelled in a vehicle or for long distances before.

House by house, door by door Berhan is helping improve maternal health in Ethiopian communities!


Safe Motherhood Ambassador, Berhan, beside young Ethiopian mother and child

Berhan (right) with baby Jonas who was safely delivered in a health centre thanks to Berhan