This blog is based on the FIGO profile 'Stories from FIGO's Fistula Fellows - DRC' about Dr Claude Idring'i Malasi.
The scope and devastation of obstetric fistula sadly extends beyond Ethiopia. As the global center of excellence and reference organization for fistula treatment and care, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia leads the fight to eradicate fistula around the world. One way Hamlin’s clinical team does this is through its partnership with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) and the FIGO Fistula Surgery Training Initiative. Having trained at Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Dr Claude Idring’i Malasi is an alumnus of the FIGO Fistula Training Initiative. He lives and works in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and saves the lives of local women every day, by delivering best-practice treatment learned at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.
Hamlin has a long and storied tradition of training surgeons from around the world and operating as a global center of excellence in fistula treatment. When Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital was first opened in 1974, surgeons would visit the hospital to learn from Drs Reg and Catherine Hamlin, who pioneered the surgical technique and holistic treatment for women with obstetric fistula. This practice evolved over the decades – Hamlin fistula surgeons went on to travel abroad to other medical facilities to provide training in the best-practice fistula repair techniques. One such surgeon was Mamitu Gashe, you can read her story here.
Since 2014, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has partnered with FIGO to provide surgeons from across the world the opportunity to learn best-practice fistula surgery techniques at Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. The FIGO Fistula Surgery Training Initiative aims to increase the number of trained fistula surgeons in low income and under resourced countries around the world. To date, Hamlin has trained 27 surgeons and eight nurses through the partnership. These medical professionals have gone on to use the skills they learned at Hamlin in their own countries and help restore women’s lives.
Dr Claude Idring’i Malasi is a surgeon based in Bunia, in the north-east corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Dr Claude works to treat fistula injuries at the Centre Hospitalier de Rwankole in Bunia. In 2017, Dr Claude spent six weeks training with Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia through the FIGO training initiative. Four of these weeks were spent at Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and a further two weeks spent at one of Hamlin’s regional fistula hospitals, learning from Hamlin’s renowned surgeons.
One of 67 surgeons to have trained through the FIGO Fistula Surgery Training Initiative, Dr Claude recently spoke to FIGO about his experience as a fistula surgeon. He explains that seeing “the smiles on the faces of women who received surgery and were cured of their fistula encouraged me greatly to learn and practice this type of surgery.”
Dr Claude’s time at Hamlin has shaped his work: “Being a FIGO fellow has helped me greatly in my fistula work… I benefited from fistula surgery training at Hamlin Fistula in Addis Ababa,” he says. Through the FIGO program, Dr Claude has received fistula surgery training, resources, and equipment. Moreover, through the program, Dr Claude has been able to connect with other fistula surgeons across the DRC to discuss the challenges they face, news and best-practice methods.
An estimated 40,000 women suffer with fistula in the DRC. The complexity of treating a significant number of historical fistula cases is compounded by political instability and resource scarcity in the DRC. For these reasons, having skilled fistula surgeons like Dr Claude is so important in the eradication of fistula at large.
As a former Hamlin trainee and FIGO Fistula Fellow, Dr Claude has been able to transform the lives of women suffering with fistula in the DRC. His work, and that of the 34 other surgeons and nurses who trained at Hamlin, is a key component in the global effort to eradicate fistula. Forever.
The devastating impacts of fistula are not just limited to Ethiopia, that is why the fight to eradicate obstetric fistula is a global fight. Hamlin is proud to work with surgeons beyond the borders of Ethiopia; by collaborating and sharing knowledge and skills we will get closer to ending this preventable childbirth injury once and for all.
The FIGO Fistula Surgery Training Initiative at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has been on pause as a result of the global pandemic. However, the program is planned to resume once international borders open once again. We look forward to sharing more stories about Hamlin-trained FIGO Fistula Fellows with you. If you’d like to meet some members of Hamlin’s clinical team, you can read their profiles here.
Later this year, FIGO will be hosting the twenty-fourth iteration of the World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics. The FIGO World Congress will see over 8,000 delegates will gather, virtually, to learn and exchange ideas, as well as build solutions to myriad challenges to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights – including obstetric fistula.
The work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is only possible thanks to generous supporters. To help support Hamlin programs and to help Ethiopian women, please consider making a donation here.