Edna Doing a Lot with a Little in Somaliland
I have just returned home from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I was invited by WHO, UNFPA and the International Confederation of Midwives to attend and speak during theSecond Global Midwifery Symposium. It feels like I haven’t been home very much in 2013 but I have been greatly honored to share with the world how, with few resources, we have been able to achieve so much progress, particularly in the training of midwives.
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In Kuala Lumpur I was very honored to join other midwives and healthcare professionals to exchange thoughts on keeping mothers and babies alive because although I now run a full service hospital, I will always be a midwife first and foremost, and maternal and child health will always be my priority.
My country, Somaliland, is one of the poorest nations on Earth. At this symposium, I was asked to share with the participants how it is that we’ve accomplished what we have in the face of such overwhelming obstacles. A mere fifteen years ago when I retired from the UN, Somaliland had just emerged from a devastating civil war. Our infrastructure was shattered, and many of the professionals to whom we would have looked to help us rebuild had been killed or had fled the country. We literally started from scratch.
As I listened to other speakers, I began to realize how isolated, how alone, Somaliland is. The other nations represented at the symposium were countries with long histories and stable governments, with international recognition and support, with better school systems and higher literacy rates, with natural resources that they could exploit. Their governments have the capacity to play a central role in their healthcare systems. I heard a representative from an African nation lament that despite their best efforts, skilled birth attendants were present at “only” 70% of all births. I thought “Wow. Only 70%. I’d be happy with 17% in my country.”
In Somaliland, we have a severe lack of financial and human resources. Since we are not a recognized nation, our country does not receive foreign aid. The majority of our people are nomads who cannot read or write. Every day we fight not only disease and death, but also ignorance and superstition. So how was it that I found myself at an international forum being asked to discuss our accomplishments?
I realized that the answer is this: What we lack in education, training and technology, we make up for in sheer determination. This is the way we pulled ourselves out of a brutal civil war – by our sheer determination to live in a peaceful and democratic society. We set our mind to it and we accomplished it.
And we are doing the same in healthcare. As part of our collective resolve to build a safe and secure community, we are finding a way to rebuild our hospitals, clinics and health centers. I started training our next generation of nurses and midwives even before construction was finished on the hospital. Today we’re still leading the way, training not only nurses and midwives, but also pharmacologists, laboratory technicians, anesthesiologists and public health workers. We’re also a teaching hospital where young Somaliland doctors learn to practice their profession.
In Somaliland, we’re doing a lot with very little. I appeal to you all to help me maintain this momentum, to help me pioneer and train midwives and other healthcare workers to provide assistance to our remote regions. Continue to show me the generous support that you have shown me for the past 11 years. In short, please help me to continue to help save lives.