Medical Mission Sisters’ members cite two main reasons for their success in reducing fistula and maternal mortality. First is a combination of curative medicine coupled with teaching people hygienic and healthy practices at home. Second is a stable leadership that works slowly and patiently toward a common goal.

By Melanie Lidman  (Global Sisters Report) |

When Medical Mission Sisters founder Anna Dengel arrived in Attat in the early 1960s to inspect an abandoned monastery where the Catholic church had asked her to consider starting a hospital, she immediately knew the answer: absolutely not.

Dengel took one look at the desolate rolling hills of south central Ethiopia and knew she could not send young sisters to a place where they would be so isolated. “She said, ‘I can’t send my sisters to where there is no road, no electricity, no nothing!'” recalled Sr. Inge Jansen, originally from Germany, who has lived in Attat for 47 years.

On the way out of Attat, Dengel and her party came across villagers who were carrying a woman in the throes of obstructed labor. They had been walking with the woman for three days in desperate search of medical help. The next place with a doctor was Addis Ababa, more than 100 miles (175 km) away, which would take days to reach. Dengel felt helpless. There was no way the woman could survive.

No one knows what happened to that nameless woman, though it is unlikely that she lived. But her presence changed the course of history for the Medical Mission Sisters in Ethiopia. Sisters from this community made their way to Attat from Germany and India, later the Philippines, America, Canada and Ethiopia. Starting from a mobile clinic carried on the backs of four rented mules, their facility and staff eventually grew to serve 70,000 patients per year. The operating theatre is state-of-the-art, located at the converted monastery classrooms.

Throughout the almost five decades of service, the main focus of the hospital has always been on maternal health: ensuring that every woman has the right and the ability to deliver healthy babies safely.

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