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From conflict to hope: Selam's story

Selam lived through years of conflict during the war in Tigray and has now found hope and new beginnings thanks to the generosity of supporters.

An obstetric fistula is one of the worst things a woman can go through. Now imagine going through it during a war. 

For Selam - and thousands of women like her living in Ethiopia’s northernmost area of Tigray - this was a reality. 

The civil war that raged in the Tigray region until November 2022, resulted in the death of approximately 600,000 civilians. Mekele is the capital of the Tigray region, and the site of Hamlin’s northern regional fistula hospital. 

During this time, with the threat of war surrounding them, the Mekele hospital was forced to close or provide care at a severely reduced rate. 

Selam lives in Shiraro, a rural town more than 300 kms from Mekele. After two agonizing days in obstructed labor, Selam’s baby was stillborn and she sustained a terrible fistula injury.

The doctors at Selam’s local Shiraro health center were unable to help her so they transported her to Hamlin’s Mekele fistula hospital. 

Arrving at Hamlin's Mekele fistula hospital

“By the time I first came to this hospital I was in big depression and hopelessness. I was worried that I am the only person on earth with such a problem but when I see others like me I was relieved and felt hopeful for cure,” Selam told us.

Selam received physiotherapy to regain movement in her right leg, which had sustained nerve damage during her traumatic labor. She then received life-changing fistula surgery, which has transformed her life.

Selam blog 76 | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation | Together we can eradicate obstetric fistula in Ethiopia.

“The motherly care I am receiving has turned my feelings into happiness and hopefulness. Now I am on my way to cure and hoping to join my children happily.” - Selam

Double the women

Though the war is now over, Hamlin’s Mekele fistula hospital still faces many challenges in its endeavor to return to its pre-war level of operation. 

Thanks to our generous donors, we are now able to fund the medical equipment and medication urgently needed to open a second operating room at Mekele. 

This means double the number of women can be treated and returned to their communities, restored.


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All rights reserved 2023 Catherine Hamlin Foundation (R) (ABN58159647499)
Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation is fiscally sponsored by KBFUS (EIN582277856) and KBF Canada (RCO769784893RR0001)

Photography credits to Cameron Bloom, Nigel Brennan, Mary F. Calvert, Kate Geraghty, Amber Hooper, Joni Kabana, Johannes Remling and Martha Tadesse.

Patient names have been changed to protect the identities of those we help.