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Hamlin sets the standard for birth injury care

Hamlin Fistula has been setting the international standard in fistula care in Ethiopia for 63 years. Every patient is assessed and treated with a personalised programme including nutritional status, surgery, treatment of co-morbidities, physiotherapy, psycho-social trauma, counselling, education, skills training and financial assistance. If only the NZ government could treat Kiwi mothers the same.

Around 4.5% of Kiwi women will experience a severe tear in childbirth, including obstetric fistula. This usually requires repair under general anaesthetic and ongoing physiotherapy to treat issues such as incontinence and prolapse. For New Zealand women, causes of obstetric fistula include forceps deliveries, induction, older age of the mother and larger babies. But no matter the cause, every mother deserves holistic care and treatment. Every woman matters.

In February 2022 more than 900 personal stories of Kiwi women’s traumatic birth injuries were shared with Minister Sepuloni, outlining why the Government must provide treatment of all birth injuries and trauma. To date, obstetric fistula has not been covered for ACC treatment, as rigid ACC definitions deemed the injury to have been caused by an internal force rather than an external force to the body. A baby is not considered an external force until it is born.

A bill before parliament would amend ACC legislation to cover more birth injuries such as fistula and uterine prolapse and provide ongoing physiotherapy. It is estimated that 17,000 to 18,000 women will be helped each year. The bill is short sighted however, and the proposed changes fail to cover the full spectrum of birth injuries, the debilitating physical repercussions and resultant mental trauma, or treatment for those women currently with birth injuries.

No woman experiencing the pain and trauma of obstetric fistula and other birth injuries should be left untreated. At Hamlin Fistula, we are proud that the treatment for women suffering with an obstetric fistula is focused on not just repairing the injury but restoring dignity. We continue to provide women the complete Hamlin Model of Care. You can continue the legacy that Drs Catherine and Reg started. This pioneering couple changed the world for thousands of Ethiopian women and restored lives. You can be proud that your donation helps provide world class care for women with childbirth injuries.

Help us give hope to every woman.

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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.