The United Nations is honoring an Australian demographer and an Ethiopian hospital with its annual Population Award. The awards recognize individuals and organizations that contribute to sustainable development by improving the health and quality of life of people around the world.
The United Nations gave its institutional award to Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia for its efforts in helping women who suffer from obstetric fistula, a debilitating condition caused by obstructed labor during childbirth. Women who suffer from obstetric fistula lose control of their bladders and often live reclusive lives because they are ashamed of their condition. The condition is both preventable and treatable. But many of its victims live in remote areas of Africa where they do not have access to treatment.
Dr. Catherine Hamlin, an Australian, and her late husband founded the hospital in 1974. In addition to treating the women, the Ethiopian hospital trains doctors in surgical techniques, supports campaigns to make the public more aware of the condition and its treatment and runs a program to re-integrate women back into their communities. Dr. Hamlin said the hospital has operated on 25,000 women.
"Our job is one of curing these girls and sending them back on dancing feet to live a new life, to live again as a normal women in her village society. Before she was hiding in a dark hut somewhere in Africa," she said.
Another Australian, John Caldwell, won the individual award for a lifetime of demographic work, including his studies of families. Mr. Caldwell was cited in particular for his recent work on the social and cultural effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa.