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60 years – 60,000 Lives

2019 marks 60 years since Dr Reg and Dr Catherine Hamlin first arrived in Addis Ababa on a three-year contract to train midwives. They could not have foreseen what the coming decades would bring, how their hearts would be broken by the suffering of the fistula victims and how they would discover their life’s work in treating and preventing fistula. Sixty thousand fistula surgeries later, there is no doubt about the impact the Hamlins have made.

Dr Catherine and her late husband Dr Reg were honoured in the 60th anniversary celebrations at the Addis Ababa Hamlin Fistula Hospital when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and First Lady Zinash Tayachew attended. This is the first time an acting prime minister has ever visited the hospital and the excitement was palpable. Prime Minister Ahmed bestowed a prestigious gold medallion on Dr Catherine and inaugurated a monument in honour of her and Dr Reg.

PM Ahmed spoke in Dr Catherine’s honour: “Dr Hamlin is a lucky woman who knows what she was born for. Dr Hamlin is a heroine, because she role models humanity beyond ethnicity, colour and sex. She gives priority for humanity and taught us how to be compassionate to those who are suffering.  Dr Catherine gave us a lifelong lesson that heroism is saving human life, feeling humanity and standing by the side of the marginalised.”

In her usual humble way, Catherine responded, "I feel so much love here in this compound today. Thank you all for being with me all these years. I have worked for a long time and committed to helping Ethiopian women who are suffering from fistula. I love you all; I love Ethiopia and its people. I adore helping others and am delighted to see them healthy."

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Hamlin Fistula NZ is committed to providing ongoing support for fistula surgery and for the preventive work of the midwives. The hospital in Addis Ababa has become a centre of excellence to which doctors from other countries come to learn and master the specialist skills of fistula surgery.

Photography credits to Mary F. Calvert, Kate Geraghty, Amber Hooper, Joni Kabana, Joli Wescombe, Natasha Meyer and Martha Tadesse.