The Importance of Surgical Care: Edna Adan Ismail's Story

Edna Adan Ismail was determined to build a hospital in resource-poor Somaliland, a region scarred by decades of colonialism, military dictatorship, and civil war. After the civil war, Somaliland was left with a lack of adequate hospital and surgical equipment and an abundance of victims in need of amputations.

International organizations such as the WHO, however, prioritized preventive health care and medicine . It was later realized that surgery was a necessary component of preventive care and has substantial impact in a patient's life course. A supreme example would be a child with a repaired cleft lip and palate avoiding early childhood malnutrition.

Having been born in British Somaliland to a physician, Edna Adan would often follow her father around in the hospital he worked in. From these experiences, she understood the importance of health care from a very young age. After years of hard work, Edna Adan became a nurse and a midwife. Fortunate to have the breadth of experience both nationally and internationally from her position as the first lady of Somaliland, she decided that she was going to build a maternity hospital. After working with the patients in her hospital, her perspective on preventive care changed. She states:

I am a great believer in preventive and public health, but reality has taught me that today’s emergency needs a solution today. You cannot have only medical services—there’s got to be medical and surgical facilities. The role of surgery in the health system of any nation is crucial because it is not an option that we can either take or leave. Most of it are life-preserving interventions. It’s an important part of health care.

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Transformation in Somaliland: Edna Adan Maternity Hospital