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What is Obstetric Fistula

One of the worst things that can happen to a woman or girl is an obstetric fistula, an internal injury caused by a prolonged and obstructed labour when adequate health care has not been available. A fistula leaves her incontinent, humiliated and often cut off from her community.Β Β 

An obstetric fistula is a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum. It leaves survivors leaking urine or faeces, sometimes both, through their vagina. Some patients suffer from paralysis caused by nerve damage. 

Tragically, sufferers of obstetric fistula are often subject to severe social stigma due to their smell, perceptions of uncleanliness, a mistaken assumption of venereal disease, and in some cases, infertility. 

Nearly all patients at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital report psychological issues associated with their condition.

Each year around 1,000 women will suffer from a fistula injury in Ethiopia.

In rural areas with minimal access to water, it can be impossible for a woman with an obstetric fistula to access basic sanitation and remain dry and clean. This ongoing issue around maintaining hygiene around the injury leaves survivors physically and emotionally traumatised, and often tragically becoming outcast in her own community.

An obstetric fistula injury can often be repaired with a single, life-changing surgery. This operation can take as little as two hours.

With over 70,000 successful repair operations completed to date, our mission now is to continue to fund the treatment of fistula injuries and prevent women from suffering through a fistula or other childbirth injury by providing expert maternity care.

We do this through funding a range of programmes to support the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia. Hamlin Fistula New Zealand collaborates with other international Hamlin charities to have the greatest possible impact in maternal care for women in Ethiopia.

Our specific focus is on the prevention and treatment of fistula and other childbirth injuries.

Your support will transform the lives of some of the most at risk women in the world, who suffer needlessly from lack of medical care.

Maternity care is critical to prevent fistula.

The root cause of fistula is lack of access to maternity care. In Ethiopia, poverty and malnutrition in childhood also contributes to the stunting of the skeleton and the pelvis, which can also contribute to obstructed labour and fistula.

With your help, we can train more highly specialised midwives who will be leaders in preventing childbirth injuries and fistula.

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.