The Fistula Foundation

Fistula is a medical term, simply meaning hole. An obstetric fistula of the kind that occurs in Ethiopia (and many other developing countries) is a hole between a woman's birth passage and one or more of her internal organs. This hole develops over many days (yes, days!) of obstructed labor, when the pressure of the baby's head against the mother's pelvis cuts off blood supply to delicate tissues. Widespread starvation among girls and women stunts the growth of their pelvises (and skeletal structure generally), making them more vulnerable to this condition. In addition, lack of medical care for women in many villages means that no one can intervene during labor to prevent or repair the problem.

Obsteric fistulas result in permanent incontinence of urine and/or feces. A majority of women who develop fistulas are abandoned by their husbands and ostracized by their communities because of their inability to have children and their foul smell. Fistulas used to be common in the Western world, but decent nutrition and modern medicine have all but eliminated them.

Two remarkable doctors, Catherine Hamlin, and her late husband, Reginald Hamlin, created the Fistual Hospital in Ethiopia, which operates through worldwide donations, and has to date repaired fistulas on 30,000 women, with a 90% cure rate. The Fistula Foundation funds this holy place of hope, and also supports midwifery and prevention.

To learn more and support the work of the Fistula Foundation, please visit: