Fistula Center


Desta Mender "Joy Village" Fistula center - Addis Ababa Ethiopia 
On the outskirts of Addis Ababa is a farm and training facility built on land beside a mountain, given to Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia by the Ethiopian government. Desta Mender, which translates to Joy Village, is where long-term patients can live, learn skills and gain some independence. If a patient cannot be cured and has to have a stoma, she needs access to clean equipment and ongoing medical care. Desta Mender has market gardens, an orchard, dairy and chicken farm as well as the Juniper Café where residents learn hospitality skills. Desta Mender is also the location of the Hamlin College of Midwives’ campus. 



Many of the villages in Ethiopia have such a poor health care system that women don’t have access to medical attention during child birth. On top of that, extreme poverty renders people malnourished since child birth, which prevents full development. The effect malnourishment has on women can result in smaller bodies, smaller hips, and bones that do not grow to their full capacity.  These factors lead to dangerous child birth, where the mother is at risk of severely damaging her body. The mother can be in labor for up to four to five days trying to give birth to her child.  These high risk deliveries can cause them to get a health condition known as fistula, which changes their lives dramatically. 

Most of these women are around the age of eighteen when they receive the surgery to fix their fistula problem. This always occurs with their first child because the women were never fit to have a normal birth, but with poor health care this is not detected.  After the damage has been done, the women become handicapped, incapable of performing their daily activities in the village. If the women are fortunate their family members will catch word of a hospital in Addis that performs surgery to correct it. Somehow this news of the hospital finds its way out to remote villages.  Most of these villages are 40 miles from any dirt road. Money is then scrambled together or cows are sold in order to pay the transportation fee for the male figure of the family and the woman to travel to Addis. On some occasions the woman travels alone. Reactions to the woman’s condition can vary between acceptance and love to complete disownment and community isolation. The family’s reaction will depend on how she is treated there after.

Once the woman receives surgery, which is difficult because of a long wait list, she then goes through rehabilitation at Desta Menda, a live-in compound. There are roughly 52 women currently living at the compound, regaining skills, strengths, and self-worth to potentially go back into society. The community is not self-sustaining, but does have functioning ways of life that includes a diary, a garden, and school for the women. This community serves the women holistically in order for them to becoming fully functioning again and be able to work for the first time in years.