Thursday, December 30, 2010


Dr. Hawa Abdi, a physician and hospital administrator in Somalia is currently getting a lot of attention because she was recently named one of Glamour Magazine’s “Women of The Year,” (along with her two daughters, who are physicians as well) for 2010. Not only is Dr. Abdi a health care provider, but she also has created a camp for internally displaced peoples in Somalia on her own 1,300 acre farmland near the hospital. She has also created the The Dr.Hawa Abdi Foundation.

The mission of The Dr.Hawa Abdi Foundation is to ensure that no treatable condition shall ever be an obstacle to health. Through a combination of foundation programs and social activism, we will work to guarantee that quality healthcare is available to underserved populations in the Somali and around the East Africa. Furthermore, it is our goal to promote health and healing not only by providing quality medical and preventative care, but also by creating treatment environments that foster hope.

According to a brief biographical statement on one of the web pages, of the Foundation, Dr. Abdi is a “living hero.”

Dr.Hawa Abdi, a living hero before the eye of thousands of IDPs a mother, a leader of hope and prosparity,an inspiration and the couragious woman,the founder of the Dr.Hawa Abdi Foundation and the first woman to run and oparate a private hospital in somalia the first doctor and the list never end.

Abdi received her medical training in Kiev, Ukraine, during the 1960s with the help of a Soviet scholarship. At the time, Somalia was allied with the Soviet Union, while its archrival and neighbor Ethiopia was a partner of the United States. (In an abrupt Cold War reversal, a Marxist regime came to power in Ethiopia in 1974 and Somalian dictator Mohamed Siad Barre switched loyalties to the U.S.)

After completing her studies, Abdi returned and opened her clinic; soon the practice drew clients from all over the country, and even abroad. She was one of Somalia's first female gynecologists.

She married, raised three children, invested in hundreds of acres of farmland and had enough left over to purchase a beach getaway.

After Siad Barre was toppled in 1991 and Somalia descended into clan-based civil war, Abdi struggled to keep her clinic independent. One day, she says, soldiers with the HAWIYE clan swarmed the facility, looking to kill or capture patients from the DAROT clan.

"You will have to kill me first," she recalls telling the armed fighters. They left and never bothered her again. Abdi opened her private clinic for women and children in 1983. But when the government collapsed eight years later, she threw open her doors to all, treating victims of shootings, malnutrition and a string of epidemics.

As word of her generosity spread, the needy flocked here. More than 15,000 families currently live on her land. She offers treatment, clean water and whatever food she can spare. Nowadays, few can pay, but no one is turned away.

Abdi acknowledges that after 25 years, she dreams of escaping this place. "I'm tired," she says, sighing. "Sometimes you lose hope, you feel depressed. I've been here so long." [Bio here.]

More details about the Glamour Women of the Year Award can be found here.

On December 15, 2010, The New York Times ran an opinion piece by Nicholas D. Kristof that highlighted her work that took her from running a one room clinic in 1983 to managing a 400 bed hospital today. That article may be found at this link.


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