In 1958, obstetrician and gynaecologist Catherine Hamlin and her husband—also a doctor—answered an advertisement inThe Lancet to set up a midwifery school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Within days of arriving, the Australian couple saw obstetric fistula cases for the first time. An obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labour that leaves a woman incontinent of urine or faces. It can be prevented with access to timely and skilled maternal and newborn care. The condition was overwhelmingly common in Ethiopia because of a lack of access to health facilities and skilled health professionals, particularly in rural and remote areas.
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