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Hamlin's Patient Identification Program: The Road to New Beginnings

We have to eradicate Ethiopia of this awful thing that’s happening to women: suffering, untold suffering in the countryside. I leave this with you to do in the future, to carry on.  – Dr Catherine Hamlin

Finding the hidden women of Ethiopia

We exist to make sure women who have survived the heart-breaking and preventable childbirth injury, obstetric fistula, can live full, happy and healthy lives. Help us find the hidden women of Ethiopia and support them on their journey to a new beginning through Hamlin's Patient Identification Program. Click here to donate today. 

There are still an estimated 31,000 women living with devastating obstetric fistula injuries in Ethiopia. With 80% of the population in these areas having little or no access to quality health care, an additional 3,000 women continue to suffer fistula injuries every year. These injuries leave them trapped in a life of pain, shame and isolation.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s immediate priority is to find and treat all existing and new cases, that’s why our Patient Identification Program is so important. Hamlin’s Patient Identification Program is focused on finding, treating and caring for these women so it can: Secure women’s health and wellbeing, help women regain their roles in their families and communities, increase national awareness of obstetric fistula and educate people on how to seek treatment.

Locating women in remote areas

LP Images | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation (USA) | Working to eradicate obstetric fistula. Forever.

Hamlin Patient Identification Officers like Mohammed travel hundreds of miles every week to find women living with untreated fistula injuries, as part of Hamlin’s Patient Identification Program.

They visit remote communities, that are strategically selected, to teach local health officers about obstetric fistula and how to identify it.

Educating and raising awareness

LP Images 2 | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation (USA) | Working to eradicate obstetric fistula. Forever.

Health officers share information with the community, raising awareness of available treatment in small gatherings at churches, mosques and markets.

They then go from door-to-door, often traveling on foot for miles to find and identify women living with obstetric fistula. They carry and spread hope around the country.

Connecting women to treatment

LP Images 3 | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation (USA) | Working to eradicate obstetric fistula. Forever.

Once they identify a fistula, they often need to convince women to travel to their nearest Hamlin fistula hospital – which is not always easy. Women who have been suffering for decades don’t always believe that a cure is possible.

Once women feel ready, health officers arrange free transport and accommodation and take them to the nearest Hamlin fistula hospital for vital treatment and loving care.

For many women this will be the longest, and most important journey, they will ever make.

Treating a woman's fistula injury

LP Images 4 | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation (USA) | Working to eradicate obstetric fistula. Forever.

Hamlin fistula surgeons like Dr Leta treat each woman with skill, respect and care - repairing injuries and restoring lives.

Some injuries can be repaired with a single surgery. Others require more complex treatment – multiple surgeries, comprehensive care and rehabilitation.

Dr Leta has been working at Hamlin’s Harar Fistula Hospital since September 2020 and has restored health and dignity to over 70 women in that time.

Healing her body and mind

LP Images 5 | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation (USA) | Working to eradicate obstetric fistula. Forever.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia takes a holistic approach to care. Health professionals treat and heal each woman’s physical, psychological and emotional scars through world-class surgical techniques, extensive rehabilitation and loving care.

Healing the mind is just as important as healing the body. Each woman receives holistic care, including treatment, rehabilitation and training to prepare her for a positive beginning to a new life back in her community.

Returning home with hope

LP Images 6 | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation (USA) | Working to eradicate obstetric fistula. Forever.

For women treated at Hamlin, life can start again. Women leave healed and happy with hope for their future - thanks to the dedication of people like Mohammed and Dr Leta, and the generous support of people like you. Thank you.

Meet Mohammed, Hamlin Patient Identification Officer

Mohammed Patient Identification Officer | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation (USA) | Working to eradicate obstetric fistula. Forever.

Name: Mohammed Amin Ahmed
Job: Hamlin Patient Identification Officer
Distance traveled: Hundreds of miles every week

Mohammed has traveled hundreds of miles to find women hidden with the shame of fistula. As a Hamlin Patient Identification Officer, he has seen first-hand the heart-breaking impact of fistula, and he knows the challenges of getting treatment. “Many women living with obstetric fistula are uneducated and can’t express their needs or medical concerns,” Mohammed says. “They are often ostracized from their communities, and have no access to transport, which also prevents them from getting help.”

Mohammed has given up much of his time with his family to travel to remote communities, educate people and get women the help they so desperately need. “I listen, comfort and counsel women, and convince them that there is a better life waiting for them. At a Hamlin fistula hospital they receive physio, psychological and nutritional therapy to get them ready for their surgery and treatment.”

Thanks to Mohammed’s dedication and passion, women like Amina are well on their way to a new, healthy life, among their family and community – a new beginning. “Patient Identification Officers are the canal between patients and treatment. We feel these women’s pain and want to help them get better. But we also have to change the perception and stigma around fistula, so that we can help women come out of hiding,” reflects Mohammed.

Mohammed has been working for Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia as a Patient Identification Officer for nine years now. He is determined to find the women who have been forced to live in the shadows as a result of the stigma and pain of fistula.


Your support makes it possible for Hamlin Patient Identification Officers, like Mohammed, to find the forgotten women suffering from fistula. Thank you.

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All rights reserved 2020 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 and images have been changed to protect the identities of those we help.