British Aid Money Goes a Long Way

British Aid Money Goes a Long Way

British Aid Money Goes a Long Way in the Former British Somaliland Proctectorate

Recently there’s been a lot of discussion in the media about how £480,000 (USD $744,400) worth of British humanitarian aid supplies found their way into the wrong hands in former Italian Somalia. Earlier this month, the United Kingdom Department for International Development acknowledged that its partners in Somalia lost the supplies during raids by terrorists between November 2011 and February 2012. The popular media loves to paint the entire Horn of Africa as a land of danger and intrigue, a place where pirates rule the seas and warlords compete for desert kingdoms.

The press seems much less interested in writing about former British Somaliland Protectorate. When we get mentioned at all, we’re usually depicted as a quaint region where nomads tend to their camel herds, money-changers ply their trade on downtown street corners and men spend their afternoons chewing khat and arguing about politics. The peace, stability and total reconstruction of the country by its citizens, as well as successful recent events, such as Hargeisa’s sixth annual Book Fair or the reopening of its international airport, go largely unnoticed.

While the international community has provided millions of dollars in aid to one failed regime after another in Somalia, the people of Somaliland have learned to make do with less – a lot less. Here at Edna Adan Hospital, in the capital of Somaliland, we can show you how to get the most out of your aid Pound, Dollar or Euro.

In 2001, Edna was in the final stages of construction of her new hospital and wondering how she was going to get the equipment and supplies she needed to open the facility for patients. She received a huge boost from the British Government, who donated medical equipment to the value of £30,000 and which consisted of thirty hospital beds which are still being used today; thirty baby cots that have held over 14 thousand newborn babies; an operating table; theatre lights; and sterilizers that have been used for thousands of Caesarian sections and other operations. The impact of that gift is still being felt and appreciated today, thirteen years later.

In addition, Edna was also assisted to send key staff members to Addis Ababa to be trained at the Black Lion Hospital and the Fistula Hospital. These trainees have all returned and are now training others and keeping the operating theaters running smoothly.

As a former Colonial Development and Welfare Scholar herself, Edna has never forgotten the generosity of the British taxpayers and she is grateful for their continued support. As a teaching and referral hospital, our facility has various needs, but one that Britain and its citizens could help with is our need for long-term English instructors to help us teach our students and staff. If you have experience teaching English as a foreign language and are able to commit to a one or to a two-year term, you will find an enthusiastic group of young professionals who are eager to learn English.

For more details, please use the form on our Contact Page.

Here are photos from a recent visit to Edna Hospital by a delegation from the United Kingdom.

My Work is Not Done – by Wanda Chestnut

My Work is Not Done – by Wanda Chestnut

This article is by Wanda Chestnut, RN, DHSc, an HIV/AIDS Specialist from Glen Dale, Maryland. Even while working full time, and completing her advanced degrees, Wanda managed to participate in three medical missions to Ghana through her church in 2004, 2005 and 2006. In December 2012 she traveled to Hargeisa, Somaliland to volunteer and complete her Doctoral internship at the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital where she will return as a volunteer with Nurses for Edna, through the nonprofit organization, One Nurse At A Time in August.

“My Work is Not Done” – originally published @ The Huffington Post


In December 2012, I had the honor of voluntarily traveling to the Edna Adan University Hospital in Somaliland for two weeks to learn, understand, educate and care for women who had been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Additionally, my desire was to also use my skills as a nurse in any way that I could.

Prior to my trip to Somaliland, and even after my return to the U.S., my colleagues and friends would ask me why I chose to go there. My answer was that while I was doing research about FGM for my doctorate, I came across the hospital’s website. After reading the website in detail, and viewing all of the online video clips about Edna that I could find, I felt the pull at my heart to go there and help. I was so intrigued by Edna, her passion for the people of Somaliland and her desire to eradicate FGM, that I knew I had to meet her.

It took close to six months for us to make contact. After a few exchanges via telephone and by email, she graciously gave me the green light to come. Edna supplied me with the names and contact information of previous volunteers that I could speak with, about their experience and obtain answers to some questions that I had.

Although I had traveled to Africa three times previously, I had never traveled alone. Needless to say, I was a little nervous; however, I was not going to let my nerves stop me. I took the 15-hour flight to Somaliland on an early Sunday morning in December. Edna’s staff met me at the airport.

The ride from the airport to the hospital was a long two and a half-hours, but the scenery was absolutely amazing. The roads were unpaved and there was visual evidence of the war approximately 21 years ago. Despite the rubble remains of what were once homes, and possibly businesses, Nomads and other Somaliland people were seen along the countryside. These people in spite of their living conditions, appeared to be content in their situation.
Wanda-Chestnut-in-Somaliland
When we arrived at the hospital, I was greeted by Maah, Edna’s assistant, who was so kind to me and made sure that I had everything I needed for my stay. That evening I met my mentor Dr. Kitto at dinner. She was a very jolly person, and before long, we became inseparable. She was passionate about her work, and turned out to be an awesome mentor who taught me a lot.

While in Somaliland, I had the unique experience of interviewing a local, traditional cutter in order to understand the cultural beliefs and traditions of FGM. I believed that the information from the cutter would be vital in devising my education plan.

A traditional cutter is a woman who performs FGM on girls between the ages of five-thirteen. The cutter confirmed that it is a tradition to “cut,” or surgically close the vaginas of young girls until marriage to prevent them from engaging in sexual intercourse with any other men besides their husbands. Although FGM is banned in Somaliland, the cutter stated that she performs the procedure on 15-20 girls per day. The cutter also reported that she charges $15-$20 per procedure.

When asked if she would ever consider discontinuing the practice of FGM, the cutter responded, “Not unless I am blind or dead.” Having performed the procedure on her own daughters and granddaughters, the cutter affirmed her belief in the continued practice of FGM. She went on to say that, there is no other line of work in her country that would allow her to make the amount of money that she currently makes.

While at the hospital I also assisted in the de-infibulation procedures of several women. De-infibulation is the surgical procedure used to open the “closed” vaginas of women who were subjected to FGM as children. While heart wrenching, I felt that it was important to participate in the procedures to fully understand how to educate the woman of Somaliland.

The women undergoing de-infibulation were terribly frightened as they were being prepped and cut open. Surrounded by a team of competent clinicians who now viewed the procedure as normal and routine, my role was to offer comfort to these women with a friendly touch and smile.

After interviewing the traditional cutter and actually witnessing the de-infibulation procedures, I shifted my focus to educating and raising awareness among both professional and lay providers of the potential physical and emotional repercussions of FGM. I had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with over 50 Somaliland nursing students.
One Nurse at a Time

In my lectures and discussions, I reviewed how endemic the practices of FGM still are in Somaliland and emphasized the significant, negative reproductive, urological and mental health sequelae of FGM. Students were grateful to learn more about the cultural practice that, although banned, still negatively affect many women and girls.

During my time at the hospital 27 babies born, all with good outcomes. I assisted in the delivery of approximately one third of those births. I also assisted with postpartum assessments, taught mothers how to breast feed their newborn babies, and educated many Somaliland women and men on FGM.

While working on the hospital’s maternity ward, I also shared information with practicing locals physicians and nurses on FGM. In addition, I carefully presented facts about the practice, including the long-term sequelae of the traditions of FGM. Maintaining the delicate balance of respecting cultural traditions and raising awareness about the ill effects of a practice rooted in the history of that culture was instrumental in my success in connecting with the people I encountered.

It was a privilege and an honor to volunteer my knowledge of western nursing practice, and medicine, to educate nurses, health care professionals and patients on the taboo subject of FGM. While valuing the culture and beliefs of the people of Somaliland, I believe that I was still able to make an impact by educating the current and future health care professionals on the effects of FGM.

I cannot thank Edna enough for affording me this opportunity. While my visit to Somaliland is over, my work around FGM is not over. I am committed to educating my colleagues in the U.S., increasing awareness about Somaliland and the wonderful people there, encouraging others to volunteer their time and talents, and providing financial resources to deserving nurses to help them further their education. And, I will be back in Hargeisa in August to volunteer!

Visit Nurses for Edna
On Faith and Future

On Faith and Future

by Liz Connor

From the roof of the hospital, I watch the frenetic rush that marks the end of the day here. Women painted in brilliant color carrying sacks of vegetables and meat open the gates to their simple homes, ready to nourish their children. Men get up from café tables, lock shop doors, and honk their horns in impatience with traffic. The clouds become backlit by an orange sun as the wind rushes toward me, carrying the call from the six surrounding mosques. The people below pick up the pace, the men to prayer, the women to home, a never ending bending and bowing in loyalty to God and Family and Clan.

As the energy increases I am overwhelmed with the days falling off the calendar, closing my time here. And I wonder. What sort of devotion guides me to these moments? What kind of faith do I have in humanity to fling myself across the world to the Horn of Africa? What sort of prayer do I have for our future? What sort of pilgrim am I?

Christopher Stansfield

Liz Connor and other volunteers.

As I walk down the stairs back to the maternity ward, I know. Certainly. It’s the children that I come for. In reverence for their future I work. It’s the Africa I want to nurture, the little rays of light with dark eyes and playful smiles who will one day reshape our world and the destiny of this continent. The children who will become men and women and hopefully decide that violence is unacceptable, that humans beings are equal, that life is sacred. And in investing in their mothers we indirectly give them a chance to do just that.

For the past month, I have been working as a volunteer nurse at Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland. I have learned a ton about healthcare in post-conflict, resource-poor countries. I have also had the immense honor of learning from Edna herself about the realities of this place and the people who call it home. She has taken me on excursions off the paved road and into the dry desperate desert, and narrated a Somaliland about which most of the world is ignorant.

Penny Armstrong

Liz Connor and other volunteers.

I have seen Edna’s life’s work manifest in these doctors and nurses, and in those intimate moments of being with patients in vulnerable places. I have had the opportunity to take care of mothers and babies, sick and well. I’ve connected with people and made stabs at their language, I have looked into eyes filled with pain and fear. I have worked on keeping several babies alive that had little chance, and watched the soul depart from others. These are small acts, but this is life saving and life-affirming work. Both for the patients and myself.

This hospital cannot save every baby, or every mother, and things don’t always run smoothly, but the fact that it exists tells women that they are worth the effort. It shows everyone in Somaliland that people are valuable, male or female, big or small, rich or poor, nomadic or stationary. It tells the children they should honor their precious fragile lives and the lives of those around them, as they grow and are pushed into the harsh world. It tells me that there is hope for a new Africa, for a new generation.

And for all of this experience and learning, and for all of the sadness and joy, I am grateful beyond words.

I am floored in my awe of this woman who could be discerning enough to recognize a need in the rubble of war and poverty, and find the strength and vision to shout a wholehearted “Yes” for her people. Because I think that is the right answer to the questions.

And from a little hospital in Somaliland, where miracles are being born every day, a hopeful pilgrim agrees with all of her heart and bows in reverence for the potential of this place underneath a desert sky.

The Nigerian poet Ben Okri wrote, on Africans:

We are the miracles that God made

To taste the bitter fruit of time

We are precious

And one day our suffering

Will turn into the wonders of the Earth

Ask Edna

Ask Edna

United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) has published to her web site, Off The Sidelines, a page of Questions and Answers, questions from her Book Club members addressed to Edna Adan.

The goal of Sen. Gillibrand’s group is to make more women aware of the need to be involved in the decisions that affect their lives every day and to let women know that their voice matters, to give them the resources to start to get more involved and tell the inspiring stories of women who already are. She says, “I’m so proud that today, for International Women’s Day, Edna Adan has agreed to answer some of our book club members’ questions, which we’ve posted at Off The Sidelines here.”

Edna discusses how she decided, at the age of 11 or 12, to study nursing and how she broke a taboo by speaking out against Female Genital Mutilation. Describing what has contributed to making her successful in her endeavors, Edna cites her “rebellious character and the courage to speak out against what I find to be unjust.”

She also discusses in some considerable detail what the hospital is looking for in the way of Volunteers and the process that leads to their being accepted.

Thankfully, we do not have in Somaliland all of the atrocities mentioned in “Half The Sky” but whatever atrocities exist in a community should be stamped out. The one that exists and persists in my community is female genital mutilation or female circumcision. I rebelled against it first because it has affected me personally, and secondly because I am a midwife and in my profession, I see on a daily basis how women’s bodies are damaged by this practice. I guess I just reached a point in my life when I couldn’t take it anymore and I just kind of exploded. I have been fighting against the practice ever since. [more]

Off the Sidelines

A French Doctor’s Perspective

A French Doctor’s Perspective

The following is written by a volunteer at the Hospital, Dr. Brigitte Herant Dunais.

A link sent by my son – I have no idea how he came across the Edna hospital website – prompted me to apply as a volunteer for the month of October 2011, an experience I do not regret. This was an opportunity to discover Somaliland, its people, its history and its plight as it strives to obtain recognition from the international community. But most of all it was a chance to witness what determination and dedication can achieve in a difficult context, where constraints opposed by poverty, tradition and religion all converge to make provision of medical care a seemingly insurmountable challenge. That challenge has been taken up by Edna Adan Ismail who has dedicated her life to improving the condition of her countrywomen. And judging by the steady flow of deliveries in her maternity hospital, she has certainly filled a void and brought comfort and security to many who would otherwise have had their babies in far more hazardous settings.

Doctor Said with Brigitte

Doctor Said with Brigitte

But there is still a lot to overcome as women are deprived of what any Westerner would consider as basic rights, are subjected to intentional burns, are required to undergo genital mutilation, to have at least 10 children to please their spouse who has the right to oppose a life-saving C-section, or any surgical procedure. Some endure the distress of watching their child develop horrific hydrocephalus for lack of a neurosurgeon, or die from a snakebite for lack of an antidote – there is none in the country, and they probably couldn’t afford it anyway, were it available; and yet many men waste their meager income chewing khat. Edna is trying to promote “child spacing,” apparently a more acceptable term than family planning; it is however forbidden to sell condoms in Somaliland.

Then there is the lack of specialized staff: visiting surgeons repair cleft lips, broken limbs, retracted burn scars, but there is no pathologist to read a biopsy specimen. The range of medications is limited.

Yet in spite of it all, there is hope. I believe the young women of Somaliland are the ones who will make their country a better place, indeed I met several who were driven by that ambition, and Edna is certainly an inspiration for them. Our role as volunteers is also to encourage and support this drive, and help them demonstrate their ability to play a responsible and independent role in their society.

I was told I was the first French doctor to volunteer at Edna hospital. I do hope others will come after me – I should mention in passing that Edna’s French is flawless. My activities included attending the prenatal clinic or the maternity ward, assisting in C-sections, doing the ward rounds, seeing outpatients, and teaching nursing students. Even if one cannot speak Somali, there is always someone willing to translate, and also much comfort to be conveyed by a smile or a reassuring hand. And the people are kind and friendly, the staff welcoming, the atmosphere around Edna’s table homely, and the turnover of international volunteers stimulating. A month was definitely too short!

Brigitte Herant Dunais, MD
Speracedes, France

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