News of Old Girls

Dr Catherine Hamlin AC (1924 - 2020)

In loving memory, Dr Catherine Hamlin AC

1924 - 2020

“Catherine lived an incredible life having made an enormous difference to the lives and health of thousands upon thousands of women in Ethiopia. Her passionate commitment to women and maternal health through her trust and belief in fulfilling God’s work with love and devotion to others is something that we are all in awe of.” - Julie White, Chair of Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation.

It is with great sadness that we are writing to let you know that Dr Catherine Hamlin, co-founder of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, passed away peacefully at her home on the grounds of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia on Wednesday March 18th, 2020. She was 96 years old.

It is a very sad time for those who knew Catherine – her family, her patients, her colleagues and her thousands of supporters around the world.

In this time of sorrow, we reflect upon her life and celebrate it for what it was: a gift to some of the world’s most vulnerable women.

Dr Catherine Hamlin and her late husband Dr Reg Hamlin travelled to Ethiopia 61 years ago and went on to found Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, a health network treating women who suffer the debilitating effects of an obstetric fistula – a horrific childbirth injury.

When Catherine saw and treated her first obstetric fistula survivor, her life’s path was cemented.

“We were touched and appalled by the sadness of our first fistula patient: a beautiful young woman in urine-soaked ragged clothes, sitting alone in our outpatients department away from the other waiting patients. We knew she was more in need than any of the others.”

This pioneering doctor from Australia never left Ethiopia. Instead, together with Reg, she committed her life to Ethiopian women and to improving maternal health in Ethiopia. Since their arrival, more than 60,000 women who have suffered an obstetric fistula have been treated free of charge.

Today, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is a healthcare network of over 550 Ethiopian staff - many trained by Catherine - servicing six hospitals, Desta Mender rehabilitation centre, the HamlinCollege of Midwives and 80 Hamlin supported Midwifery Clinics. Hamlin is the reference organisation and leader in the fight to eradicate obstetric fistula around the world, blazing a trail for holistic treatment and care that empowers women to reassert their humanity, secure their health and well-being, and regain their roles in their families and communities.

Until her last day, she believed that all women should have access to maternal healthcare to deliver their babies safely. She spent over 60 years bringing her belief to life in Ethiopia. She knew that none of this would have been possible without people like you, her generous supporters, donors and friends.

Catherine was always grateful to those who supported her dream of eradicating obstetric fistula in Ethiopia. In writing this, we are also writing to say thank you; because without you, Catherine’s incredible life changing work would not have been possible.

Catherine was confident her legacy would live beyond her life:

“When I die, this place will go on for many, many years until we have eradicated fistula altogether – until every woman in Ethiopia is assured of a safe delivery and a live baby.” 

We all remain committed to ensuring that Catherine’s dream of eradicating obstetric fistula in Ethiopia becomes a reality.

To say Catherine was a remarkable woman is an understatement. In our eyes, she was a saint.

With deep gratitude,

Carolyn Hardy, Chief Executive Officer and Julie White, Chair
Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation

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