Outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in the villages, are young women who have suffered the awful damage of fistulas during difficult births, with no access to care in pregnancy and childbirth. Often the babies are stillborn.
We heard about this situation during a speaker meeting, from Dr Brian Hancock, former GP in Lancaster, who is a Trustee of the Hamlin Fistula Hospital, and who goes out to give medical care to patients through Rotary Doctor Bank.
Many of us are mothers. We may have had some complications in childbirth, but with the facilities of the NHS available to us. We were very concerned about the fistula patients ― often incontinent as a result of their injuries, and cast out by their husbands because of that.
What could we do to help? Patients coming for fistula repair at the Hamlin Hospital, who often travel a long difficult journey to reach medical aid, are given a bath, a new cotton dress, and a shawl. Their surgery is provided by the hospital ― but we could provide shawls. And so, for many years, some members of SI Lancaster who knit have made shawls. These go to Ethiopia via a Hamlin Charity Trustee in Halesowen, Worcs.
Thankfully, now, there are far fewer fistula injuries. The hospital has set up outreach clinics and trained midwives and birth attendants, who go out into rural communities to give maternity care. More C-sections are performed, avoiding protracted labour with resultant damage to mother and baby.
So now, we are still giving service by knitting ― but it’s baby jackets for all the babies being born fit and well, together with beanie hats (cold nights in Ethiopia!) and brightly-coloured baby shawls.
Click here for a Newsletter from the Hamlin Fistula UK, about the journey of shawls knitted in the UK to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia.