Edna Adan: The woman who cashed in her pension, sold her car and even her dishwasher to build a hospital in Somaliland

Edna Adan Ismael

Edna Adan ©http://ednahospitalfoundation.org/

I wonder how many of us could give up our home comforts and sell all that we own to help those in need? Well that’s exactly what Edna Adan did when she retired at the age of 60. She sold all her possessions to be able to build a maternity hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland.


The Horn of Africa: Somalia and Somaliland

Somaliland, an autonomous region located in northern Somalia, has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Women have a 1 in 10 chance of dying of pregnancy related complications, whereas in developed countries that figure is closer to 1 in 4,000.

Edna’s dream for years had been to build a hospital in her native country. She was born in Hargeisa in 1937 to a very well-known Somali doctor and as a young woman she gained a scholarship and moved to England where she trained in nursing, midwifery and hospital management for seven years.

When Edna returned home to Somaliland, she became the first qualified nurse-midwife in the country. She later became the First Lady of Somalia when she married Prime Minister, Muhammad Ibrahim Egal.

After they divorced, Edna was recruited to join the World Health Organisation (WHO), where she held various key positions advocating for the abolition of harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation.

She retired in 1997, but instead of taking it easy, she cashed in her pension from the WHO and sold her jewellery and her Mercedes to be able to build the Edna Adan University Hospital. “I do miss my car – yes,” Edna says.  “But what it has become gives me far more satisfaction. The forceps,  the instruments, the construction material that it has helped to provide is far more exciting. …Besides, what would I do with a Mercedes in a country that has no paved roads?”

Back in the late 1980s Edna had started to build a hospital in the Somali capital Mogadishu, but when the civil war broke out she was forced to flee the country. Her dream was finally realised, though, in 2002 when the Edna Adan University Hospital was completed in her hometown of Hargeisa. Since the opening, the hospital has seen over 14,000 patients and delivered over 12,000 babies and Edna has now focused her efforts on a new goal: training and dispatching 1,000 qualified midwives throughout Somaliland.

TED Talks: Edna Adan

“Edna is saving women’s lives in childbirth in one of the most difficult, desolate countries in the world – Somaliland,” says New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, who wrote about Edna in Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide“She is training midwives across the country, she has built a hospital that serves women, men, and children, she is fighting female genital mutilation,  and she is doing all of this just by force of will….It’s an incredible achievement.”

Edna and Nick Kristof ©http://ednahospitalfoundation.org/

Edna and Nick Kristof outside the hospital ©http://ednahospitalfoundation.org/

What Edna has done to help those in need is amazing. She had a dream that she was truly passionate about and never gave up on it. For that she is a remarkable lady and a true role model.

‘Don’t ever underestimate the capacity of a human being who is determined to do something.’ Edna says, ‘If I at 60 could build a hospital, anyone can do it’.

Actress Diane Lane visits the hospital

For more information please see the Edna Adan University Hospital website – http://www.ednahospital.org/

You can donate to the hospital here – http://www.ednahospital.org/donate/

Alternatively you can donate here to help purchase a hematology analyser to replace the one that was destroyed in a power surge. The analyser is used to check for anemia and other potential complications in pregnant mothers.

You can follow Edna on Twitter here – https://twitter.com/EdnaAdan

Thank you for reading


3 thoughts on “Edna Adan: The woman who cashed in her pension, sold her car and even her dishwasher to build a hospital in Somaliland

  1. Fran, Thank you for bringing attention to Edna and her work. She is an extraordinary woman who has built an extraordinary hospital that is making a real difference in the lives of woman and children in Somaliland. As the executive director of Friends of Edna’s Maternity Hospital (a US-based charity that has been raising money for the hospital since 2000), I am so lucky to get to see the world’s kindness everyday through people like you. Thank you!

    • Hi Amy, thank you so much for your kind comments. Edna is a real inspiration to us all and the work you guys do and have done at Friends of Edna’s to raise money for the hospital is phenomenal.

  2. Pingback: Celebrating heroes: Angelina Jolie | everylittleaction

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