On International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation has announced the launch of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s most ambitious program in decades.
Project Zero is a new initiative to accelerate the eradication of obstetric fistula across all regions of Ethiopia – step by step, woreda by woreda.
It is estimated that there are up to 31,000 historic cases of obstetric fistula among Ethiopian women of child-bearing age, and around 1,000 women suffer new birth injuries each year. Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s mission is to reduce these numbers to zero.
Hamlin’s Project Zero pilot launched on 4 February 2023 in Ale Woreda near Metu in south-western Ethiopia and will run for 9 months.
Hanna Tesfaye, Hamlin Project Zero Team Leader, says: “Our goal is to ensure that Ethiopian women living with obstetric fistula today will be found, treated, and given back their lives.
“At the same time, we are working hard to minimise the risks of childbirth for the women of tomorrow and prevent new fistula injuries through investment in partner health clinics and partnership with local health providers.”
The Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia Project Zero team is working alongside local health professionals in the Ale Woreda Health Bureau and other local stakeholders to undertake a household survey and outreach in the community to:
1. Identify and treat every woman living with an historic fistula injury.
2. Assess and improve access to maternal health care services in the Woreda and introduce a comprehensive ante-natal program to track every pregnant woman.
3. Provide a constant and reinforced effort to raise awareness of obstetric fistula and maternal health risks and what people in each woreda can do: whether they are the relatives of pregnant women, the neighbour of a woman who has an obstetric fistula injury, a pregnant woman, a community leader, or a religious leader.
Tesfaye Mamo, CEO of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia says: “The Project Zero pilot is on track. Community knowledge and health infrastructure created by Project Zero will help ensure change is sustained across the Woreda and it remains fistula free.
“The Hamlin team will also provide longer-term support and mentoring to the Woreda over the following three years to ensure the program is embedded locally.”
With lessons learned from this pilot, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia will begin implementing Project Zero in more Woredas across Ethiopia and gradually increase these to match the number of new Hamlin midwife graduates each year.
Carolyn Hardy, CEO of Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation, says: “Dr Catherine Hamlin believed it was possible to eradicate obstetric fistula from Ethiopia. Given the progress made during her lifetime, we know she was right. Project Zero is our road map to continue Catherine’s work toward a fistula-free Ethiopia.
“Eradication of this terrible condition from Ethiopia is within reach. It is entirely possible that Ethiopia could be fistula-free within a decade.”
23 May 2023