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Jallene’s Journey

For years, Jallene needlessly endured the agony of obstetric fistula without any medical attention. Thanks to a Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia initiative, Jallene was identified by Hamlin-trained health officers and taken to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital for treatment. Jallene’s journey is one of sacrifice, suffering and, ultimately, the renewal of hope.

Life before fistula, Jallene's journey

Jallene is from a remote village near Asossa, the capital of the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia. Like most of the women in her village, Jallene has spent most of her life farming the same small plot of land along with her family. Their subsistence farming would generate a little money – the sole source of income for the entire family – but life was not easy for Jallene and her five children.

During her sixth pregnancy, Jallene lost her baby; her seventh pregnancy would result in even more tragedy. When Jallene conceived again, she thought her pregnancy would proceed as usual. Living in a remote village meant that access to antenatal care in the city was extremely limited; as with her previous pregnancies, she was unable to visit a clinic. Unlike her previous pregnancies, Jallene experienced a prolonged and obstructed labour.

Jallene tried to deliver at home, to no avail. After two days of pain, she was taken to a nearby government clinic where she eventually delivered a stillborn child. In addition to the anguish of losing a child, Jallene suffered a devastating fistula injury.

The harsh reality of fistula bears out in the numbers. Seven in every ten women in rural Ethiopia give birth without any medical care. Lack of access to a qualified midwife increases the likelihood of a woman experiencing an obstructed labour. Where an obstructed labour is neglected or allowed to continue without intervention, a stress incontinence or an obstetric fistula will develop. A staggering 93% of the women who suffer an obstetric fistula injury give birth to a stillborn baby.

IMG 1831 | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation | Together we can eradicate obstetric fistula in Ethiopia.

Struggling to live

For many fistula sufferers, the isolation of fistula is as harmful as the physical debilitation of fistula. Jallene’s social support systems crumbled in the wake of her fistula injury.

“After this injury, husband abandoned me and I started to struggle to feed my children by myself. It was too difficult: I had to work tirelessly on the farm as well. During those days I had no friends and would never mix at any social gatherings. I just lived alone with my children,” explains Jallene.

Jallene lived with the debilitating pain of fistula  – and single-handedly supported her three sons and two daughters – for ten years.

Earlier this year, Jallene was brought to Hamlin's Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital for treatment. Upon arrival she was embraced with tender and loving care, provided nutritious food, a handmade woven blanket, and clean clothing. And, although in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she received surgery to repair her complex fistula injury – free of charge, thanks to generous donors like you.

USWNImages 1 | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation | Together we can eradicate obstetric fistula in Ethiopia.

A promising future

“I regret not knowing about Hamlin and coming at the earliest possible opportunity to experience such joyful dryness. I have no words to explain my gratitude for everybody at the hospital. They have worked so hard with the current pandemic and gave me such motherly care,” reflects Jallene.

This Giving Tuesday (December 1) we are asking supporters to fund 10 surgeries for women like Jallene and stop the devastating impact of fistula. Will you help? 

Our vision is to end fistula by 2030 and we hope you will join us this Giving Tuesday by donating here today.


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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.