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About Us

Drs Reg and Catherine Hamlin

Dr Reg (a Kiwi from Napier) and Dr Catherine (an Australian) Hamlin travelled to Ethiopia for the first time in 1959 to establish a training school for midwives.

On the evening of their arrival in Ethiopia, a fellow gynaecologist told them, “The fistula patients will break your hearts.” And they did. Dr Catherine said, “We were touched and appalled by the sadness of our first fistula patient: a beautiful young woman in urine-soaked ragged clothes, sitting alone in our outpatients’ department, away from the other waiting patients. We knew she was more in need than any of the others. And so, we saw the first of many fistula patients.”

The Hamlins had never seen an obstetric fistula case before, and there was little or no treatment available in Ethiopia. Dr Catherine and Dr Reg refused to turn their backs on the women of Ethiopia and their plight. Instead, they committed their lives to improving maternal health for the women of Ethiopia, and worked through military unrest, famine and civil war to dramatically transform the maternal healthcare landscape in the country they called home.

Drs Catherine and Reg refined the surgical technique to repair obstetric fistula injuries, and fundraised to open the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 1974.

Dr Reg worked at the hospital until he died in 1993. Dr Catherine, two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and ‘the Saint of Addis Ababa’, lived on the grounds of the hospital until her death in 2020, at age 96. Catherine was buried alongside Reg in the British War Graves Cemetery in Addis Ababa, the capital of the country they had called home for most of their lives.

More than 60,000 patients were treated during their lifetimes.

No one else has done as much to eradicate this preventable crippling condition and in doing so empower women to take back their lives.

Hamlin Today 

Dr Catherine planned for their work to continue long after she and Reg were gone.  

Today, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia comprises Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, five Hamlin regional fistula hospitals, the Hamlin College of Midwives, the Hamlin Rehabilitation and Reintegration Centre, Desta Mender (‘Joy Village’) and over 50 remote rural Hamlin Midwifery Centres. Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is fully staffed by over 550 Ethiopian professionals – many of whom were trained by Catherine – and who continue the Hamlins’ work. 

Neither of them ever sought accolades or acknowledgment. Both were humbled and grateful for the support of New Zealand donors to continue to fund this important work.  

Hamlin Fistula New Zealand is part of a family of Hamlin charities, with others located in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America, The Netherlands and Australia. 

Join us in continuing Dr Reg and Dr Catherine’s incredible legacy.  

“We are facing a challenge – a challenge at the beginning of this 21st century. We stand now, as it were, at a gate - a gate open at last to reveal thousands of young women all over the Developing World, with their hands out to us begging for help. Let us together raise the needed funds, build the needed hospitals and most importantly train the needed fistula surgeons and nursing staff.” 

- Dr Catherine Hamlin AC from her UN Population Award Acceptance speech in 2004

Help us give hope to every woman.

Keep up to date with our work including the latest news from our programmes in Ethiopia, ways to get involved and how your support can make a difference.
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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.