Honoring a Pioneer in the Fight Against Obstetric Fistula

The Zonta International community is remembering Zonta International Honorary Member, Dr. Catherine Hamlin, Australia’s most renowned gynecologist. Together with her husband, Dr. Reginald Hamlin, she founded the first Fistula Hospital in the world in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She devoted 60 years of her life to the treatment of women suffering complications from fistula and obstructed childbirth. Dr. Hamlin passed away at her home in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, 18 March. She was 96 years old.


When Dr. Hamlin and her husband started their work in Ethiopia, they had read about obstetric fistula in textbooks. “But we had never seen one. To us they were an academic rarity,” Dr. Hamlin wrote in her book “The Hospital by The River.” She soon learned that they were not a rarity at all. The Fistula Hospital became Africa’s center of expertise for fistula treatment. Zonta’s funding of UNFPA’s Liberia Fistula Project in the years 2008 to 2018 (US$3.5 million) enabled Liberian doctors to spend some weeks at this center to receive the necessary surgical training.

We will remember Dr. Hamlin for her life-changing and life-saving work – for the 60,000 Ethiopian women that received reconstructive surgery through Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia and for the countless other women and girls who received treatment in other countries, like Liberia. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Dr. Hamlin’s family, friends and colleagues.