Dr. Catherine Hamlin “champion of Ethiopian women’s health”

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Dr. Catherine Hamlin, the founder of Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, the world’s first fistula hospital, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 96 in Addis Ababa.

Catherine Hamlin has been fighting fistula obstetrics for more than sixty years. Dr. Catherine and Reginald Hamlin founded an organization called Hamlin fistula Ethiopia 46 years ago after being confronted with the tragic situation of Ethiopian women suffering from obstetric fistulas.

“I express my deep sorrow at the passing of Dr. Catherine Hamlin. Ethiopia lost a true gem who dedicated more than sixty years to restoring the dignity of thousands of women. I wish her loved ones, friends, and colleagues comfort. May she Rest In Peace. ThankyouCatherine” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted.

Engr. Takele Uma, Mayor of Addis Ababa, on his side “Dear Dr. Catherine Hamlin, Not many dedicate their lives for service, but you fell in love with serving thousands of vulnerable women across decades. You surely moved our nation & today we honor & lift up your memory. May your mission & fight for restoration continue!”

Catherine Hamlin was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1924. She graduated from medical school at the University of Sydney. In 1950, she married Dr. Reginald Hamlin, medical superintendent at Crown Street.  She left Australia accepting a three-year contract from the Ethiopian Government to work as obstetrician-gynecologists to set up a midwifery school in Addis Ababa. She arrived in Ethiopia in 1959 with her husband and six years old son.

Within three years of arrival, Catherine and Reginald managed to operate on 300 patients working at Princess Tsehai Hospital in Addis Ababa. Before the couple established the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, they had been working at a Hostel they had built on the grounds of Princess Tsehai hospital using money they received from a donation.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has treated more than 50,000 patients so far, with a 95 percent success rate.

Dr. Catherine had received several awards and honors. The first award was the Haile Selassie Humanitarian Prize and Medal, presented by Emperor Haile Selassie the first. And, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 and 2014.

Additionally, In 2009 she was awarded the ‘alternative Nobel Peace Prize,’ the Right Livelihood Award, for her work and in 2012 was given Honorary Ethiopian citizenship. Furthermore, last year, she received a gold medal and certificate of recognition from prime minister Abiy and the statue of the couple inaugurated while celebrating the 60th anniversary of their arrival in Ethiopia.

Her husband, Dr. Reginald Hamlin, worked at Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital until he died in 1993. Hamlin lived in her house on the grounds of the Hospital and remained very active in the day-to-day work of saving thousands of Ethiopian women until her death.