Getu and her husband were looking forward to the birth of their first child. Getu kept busy during her pregnancy, helping her farmer husband with collecting wood from the forest, grinding cereals and other household activities.
Their daughter was delivered safely but Getu sustained a terrible obstetric fistula injury during a prolonged, obstructed labor.
The deep shame she felt because of her injury and a lack of money prevented her from seeking treatment, so she suffered in silence. She told us:
“I did not seek help because I don’t have money. I felt shame to expose my body without knowing whether it can be cured or not.”
Getu is not alone. An estimated 31,000 women in Ethiopia are suffering with an untreated obstetric fistula injury in Ethiopia and 1,000 new cases occur each year. Most of these women do not know that treatment is available so they hide away, humiliated and alone.
That’s why Project Zero, Hamlin’s most ambitious program in decades, is so vital to the eradication of this cruel condition in Ethiopia.
Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s Project Zero team is going woreda (district) to district, house to house, to find women hidden with untreated fistula injuries and refer them for treatment at a Hamlin fistula hospital. Teams of Hamlin-trained community volunteers known as Health Development Armies (HDA) are being trained to identify fistula and midwives and nurses at local health centers are being mentored to improve maternal healthcare services.
Hanna Tesfaye is the Team Leader for Project Zero. She trained as a midwife at the Hamlin College of Midwives and has a Master’s degree in public health. Hanna met Dr Catherine Hamlin at the College and shares her vision of eradicating obstetric fistula in Ethiopia.
“If a woman is free from obstetric fistula, she’s a backbone of the family. She’s a woman. She’s a sister, a mother and a wife. The family will be productive and future generations will be productive.” – Hanna
Increasing awareness of fistula and its treatment is so important to ensure women like Getu know that help is available. Awareness campaigns are being conducted in major marketplaces, community gatherings, schools, conferences for pregnant mothers and through meetings and workshops with religious and community leaders and health care providers.
Getu was found by members of the HDA. She explains:
“They come to my home and asked me certain questions and asked me if I have this kind of problem [fistula]. Then they linked me to the people in Project Zero who pick me and other women in our village in their car and brought us here [to Hamlin’s Metu Fistula Hospital].
When she arrived at the hospital, this is what she told us:
“I felt like I have a hope. I have seen when women got cured and return to their home and I am waiting for my turn to be happy and return to my family with a good health.”
Click here to learn more about Project Zero.