Somaliland: Edna Addresses Disconnect between the Development of Disease Control Strategies and Implementation in Developing and Developed Nations


Edna attends Albert Schweitzer Hospital Centennial

By: Edna HospitalDr Edna Addressing Albert Schweitzer Hospital Centennial in Libreville

Somalilandsun – Edna Adan was among the speakers at a symposium celebrating the Albert Schweitzer Hospital Centennial, which took place in the West African country of Gabon on July 6-7. This was Edna’s second visit to Gabon this year; you may recall that she was invited earlier to assist the country in developing a midwife training program.

Most people are familiar with Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s medical work in French Equatorial Africa during the early and mid-twentieth century. Fewer are aware that the hospital that Dr. Schweitzer founded in 1913 is still active today, and stands on the banks of the Ogooue River in Lambarene, in modern-day Gabon. The hospital is a leading research center in the global fight against malaria, and focuses on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as well.

The symposium was held in Libreville, the capital of Gabon. The distinguished delegates included world leaders in the various health sciences and ranged from researchers, scholars and Nobel Laureates to descendants of Dr. Schweitzer himself. We’re proud that Somaliland was represented not only by Edna, but also by Dr. Naima Ahmed Mohamed, one of our fine, young staff physicians. Prior to the start of the symposium, the delegates were flown to Lambarene where they were given a tour of the Schweitzer Hospital and had an opportunity to view the beautiful grounds.

The symposium itself was opened by the President of Gabon, H.E. Ali Bongo Ondimba and Dr. Christiane Engel, granddaughter of Dr. Schweitzer. The focus of the workshop was the global fight against the “Triple Epidemic” of HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. Edna participated in a panel discussion regarding the role of screening in the control of infectious diseases. She was joined on the panel by Dr. Sam Thenya from Kenya and Professor Brian Williams from South Africa.

Edna with President Bongo of GabonEdna delivered a message that spoke to the all-too-common “disconnect” between the development of disease control strategies in developed nations and the implementation of those strategies in the developing world. Projects developed by researchers and scholars in the United States and Europe often rely on assumptions that may not be valid in the target countries:

 that the local population is literate

 that local health officials and medical personnel have a basic understanding of the subject disease

 that the general public has an underlying trust of the healthcare system.

 In countries like Somaliland, a strategy built upon such assumptions is a recipe for failure.

Diseases cannot be controlled on a global level unless preventive measures are implemented at levels of society. According to Edna, this means that the focus must be on the hard-to-reach populations: those in remote villages, the illiterate, people who do not have easy access to healthcare. To spread the message it is necessary to simplify the message. Materials must be available in local languages and dialects. Concepts must be explained in terms that the local population can understand. Education must take place sitting on a mat in grass hut, not in an auditorium.

Of course, at Edna Hospital we’re practicing what we preach. This is the theory behind Edna’s Community MidwivesEdna was hosted in one of the Presidential Villas project. Students are recruited from all over Somaliland with the hope that once they complete their training, they will take their knowledge and skills back to their villages and regions. These are young women who come from the local community, so they are accepted when they return. People in a small village are much more likely to trust someone from their own community than an outsider, regardless of what his or her credentials might be.

Edna would like to thank President Ali Bongo Ondimba and the people of Gabon for their hospitality in hosting the celebration.

Read more and view related pictures @ Edna University hospital