Beza is 17 years old and lives in a village near Sibu in Ethiopia with her family. She is pregnant and is expecting her first child shortly. Based on the experience of the older women in her village, she knows what to expect when she gives birth. The birth can take several days and can be very painful. Only recently her sister Mahelet lost her child after this long procedure. Mahelet herself survived badly injured. However, she now suffers from incontinence. Although she tries to maintain her physical hygiene to some extent, she does not succeed. Water is scarce and has to be fetched from far away. She cannot afford soap. The smell is unpleasant for her. She withdraws more and more from social life. The others in the village think that she was to blame for the injuries she suffered at birth and the resulting incontinence. Mahelet now lives alone in a hut on the edge of the village. Beza is afraid that she will suffer a similar fate.
This or something comparable to this situation is what happens to many women in rural areas of Ethiopia. Every year, 3,000 women in Ethiopia suffer from birth fistulas and about two million women currently suffer from them.
A birth fistula is a connection between the birth canal and the surrounding organs such as the intestine and bladder. Such a fistula can develop in different ways. They are mainly favored by inadequate or missing medical care during birth, early pregnancies and poverty. Especially in the rural regions of Africa there is a lack of medical care and medical knowledge about the processes in the body of a pregnant woman.
Women are usually left on their own when it comes to childbirth. If the fetus is too large for the birth canal, the contractions last several days and the surrounding organs are pressed against the bones under great force. This cuts off the blood supply and the tissue dies. The result is a birth fistula. The fistulas can, however, be treated. After the treatment, the women can lead a normal life.
The gynaecologists Dr. Reginald Hamlin and Dr. Catherine Hamlin founded the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa with the mission to enable these women to get their normal life back. The clinic is specialized in the treatment of obstetric fistulas and has been financed purely through donations since the start of business in 1974. To date, more than 50,000 women with obstetric fistulas have been treated free of charge.
The Hamlin Fistula Hospital is also supported by the Fistula e.V. in Germany, which is managed by Dr. Barbara Teltschik and Dr. Jutta Ritz. Karl Leibinger and Dr. Teltschik met in 2017 at a Lions Club event in our visitor centre, the KLS Martin WORLD, in Tuttlingen and assured her of the donation of two mobile surgical lights and two HF devices.
During his last visit on site, Bernhard Schmider, our Area Manager for Africa, trained the staff in the processing of surgical instruments and the basics of HF surgery. At the same time, he handed over a MedLED Chrome headlight to Dr. Fekade, the clinic's medical director, so that he can perform the complicated operations under the best possible lighting conditions.