Those who follow our Blog will remember that last Spring we announced that one of Edna’s former students, Nimco Cabdillahi, was one of five young women to win a Half the Sky Movement/Students Rebuild Award. Nimco is a nurse-midwife from Hargeisa who has chosen to relocate the village of Balligubadle because of the need for healthcare workers in that area. In recognition of her achievements, Nimco was awarded $10,000 to improve Balligubadle Hospital. If you missed the story, you can read it here.
On Sunday Edna, Dr. Shukri and Dr. Naima traveled to Balligubadle to tour the hospital and talk to Nimco and her staff about how to use the prize money. Balligubadle is one of a number of small towns on the border of Somaliland and Ethiopia. The total population of the region is probably under 20,000. It is only about 70 kilometers from Hargeisa, but the road – really a desert track – is so rough that the trip takes about three hours by car. Before leaving, Edna purchased a large bag filled with loaves of French bread which she handed out to the nomadic goat and camel herders that we passed along the way.
Edna’s family has its roots in the Balligubadle area and she has long taken an interest in that region. In 1991, she was involved in efforts to rebuild the school that had been destroyed during the war. What we have been referring to as Balligubadle Hospital was opened in 1997. It is really an MCH (Maternal and Child Health) Center. Somaliland has established a series of MCH centers throughout the country in the hopes of providing healthcare to its people. Most are staffed by nurses and midwives; very few have doctors on a regular basis. The government does what it can to support the centers, but this is a poor country and the local communities have to pitch in to keep the centers running.
When the hospital opened in 1991, it had nothing. Edna provided some of the most basic materials, including beds, sheets and curtains. In 2002, Edna again helped out with much-needed hospital equipment. There were no qualified nurses at the center, so Edna provided training to some of the traditional birth attendants, and for several years paid some of their salaries so that someone would be there to help pregnant women.
Today the center has a staff of 7 or 8, including Nimco and several others who trained at Edna Hospital. The facility is clean and well-run. There are separate wards for male and female patients, and a well-equipped (but small) delivery room. There is a beautiful courtyard with a hanging scale to weigh newborn babies. Edna delivered several boxes of hospital supplies, many of which were generously donated by our friends at Direct Relief (USA) and Australian Doctors for Africa. Among the supplies were a box of uniform trousers from ADFA that were distributed by Edna to young men and boys living in the area.
The most pressing need today is more space for deliveries. There are approximately 20 deliveries per month at the center. The deliveries take place in a small room adjacent to the women’s ward. By moving the front wall outward 3-4 feet the delivery area can be almost doubled in size. Nimco has also asked for solar panels to be installed. Right now the center has limited access to electric power.
The prize money also will help purchase new equipment. The center needs a second oxygen concentrator for newborns and others with respiratory problems, and a new microscope is needed for the laboratory. The midwives would like delivery kits (pre-assembled kits with all the instruments needed for safe births). Even with all this equipment, there should be some money left over for general hospital supplies. Keep watching this space and Edna’s Facebook page for more information.