Somaliland: Edna Adan, Fighting to Change Women’s Health Care


Edna Adan Ismail shown here with graduate nurses from Edna Adan Maternity and Childrens Hospital in Hargeisa Somaliland

By Matthew Carter

Somalilandsun – Born as a self-governing region in northern Somalia, Somaliland has managed to achieve a bit of stability while still struggling with many of the same poverty and healthcare issues as Somalia. But for the past 30 years, Edna Adan has been actively attempting to bring better health care to the region.

More specifically, Edna has focused on female genital mutilation (FGM) treatment and maternal care, which includes prenatal support, the training of midwives and qualified nurses, postnatal treatment, and infant care.

Somalia and Somaliland have been suffering from poor maternal and infant care for decades. According to UNICEF and the WHO, Somalia has the fourth largest infant mortality rate in the world (85 infant deaths per 1,000 live births); only 26.1% of pregnant women in the country are seen by qualified healthcare providers during their pregnancy; and just 33% of women are seen by skilled personnel during childbirth.

In addition to providing quality maternal and infant care, the Edna Adan University Hospital offers care for victims of female genital mutilation.

This includes medically treating the various complications and issues that arise from FGM at the time of the initial cut, as well as related issues throughout a woman’s life. In an effort to break social pressures and expectations surrounding the procedure, the hospital also offers education about FGM.

Edna Adan University Hospital Hargeisa SomalilandSince its initial opening in 2002, the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital has expanded to become the Edna Adan University Hospital. This change broadened its focus in order to add a laboratory, blood bank, HIV/AIDS care center, and a school for aspiring nursing and healthcare professionals.

Initially funded by Edna’s personal pension, the hospital has grown over the past 13 years thanks to the fundraising efforts of individuals all over the world. As a result, women and children who seek treatment or support at the hospital receive some of the best healthcare in Somaliland!

Originally trained as a nurse in the United Kingdom, Edna is the former foreign minister of Somaliland, as well as the former minister of family welfare and social development. (Edna’s late husband was Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal, former Prime Minister of Somalia during the 1960s and President of Somaliland from 1993 to 2002.)

In addition to her political positions, Edna was part of the World Health Organization (WHO), where she took on advisory, maternal and childhood healthcare, and regional director positions. After leaving WHO and returning to her home country, Edna decided to open her hospital on a small piece of land in her hometown of Hargeisa.

Hargeisa the capital of Somaliland. Photo credit Xirsi Creative CommonsAs the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals draws ever closer, it is the work and vision of amazing people like Edna Adan that are turning these goals from theory to reality. Now that the United Nations has adopted the next set of development goals, we look to these inspirational leaders to provide us with insight and ways forward!

The author Matthew Carter is member of the ONE U.S. Strategic Relationships team