Dr Edna Adan Ismail - Midwife / Activist / Wonder Woman

In 1997, she retired from the WHO and cashed in her pension. Then she sold her Mercedes-Benz, her jewellery, even her dishwasher, and purchased a piece of land in Hargeisa. The land had formerly been a graveyard, then later a military parade ground, infamous for executions and torture. In 1997 it functioned as a local rubbish dump. But for Edna, this land represented the first concrete step towards fulfilling her lifelong dream of building a hospital in Somaliland.

Edna had just around $300,000 to make her dream hospital a reality, but in her mind she “never had any doubts”. When the money ran out and the hospital still had no roof or equipment, Edna plowed on, and, with the help of donors she had inspired across the U.S.A. and the Somali diaspora, a foundation called ‘Friends of Edna’s Hospital’ was able to raise enough money to help her complete the project.

Edna was 65 years old when she opened Somaliland’s first maternity hospital in 2002.

Since opening, the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital has trained 540 midwives and completed 247 fistula repair surgeries. 22,144 babies were delivered in Edna’s hospital between its opening and 31 January 2018, and it is ranked 13th out of 205 hospitals across the African continent. The patients pay what they can afford, women receive counselling against perpetuating the harms of FGM on their daughters, and all who come to the hospital are treated, including for non-maternal and emergency issues. It is a well of life springing from a former valley of death.

Edna, now 81 years old, lives in a small flat above “my home, my hospital” and continues to work vigorously towards cutting maternal mortality and ending FGM – which, in her words, “is simply a matter of will”.

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