THE BLOG
05/13/2013 12:32 pm ET Updated Jul 13, 2013

One Goal: Decreasing Newborn and Maternal Mortality

By Amy Szabo, Interim Executive Director, Friends of Edna's Maternity Hospital

She's been referred to right here on the Huffington Post as the Muslim Mother Teresa.

When you meet Edna Adan Ismail and hear her talk about her life's work, you understand why. She is charismatic and compassionate, driven, and full of grace and beauty. She's often been referred to as a "force of nature." And she has literally committed everything she has to achieve one purpose: decreasing the newborn and maternal mortality rate in Somaliland and the Horn of Africa.

A lot of experiences have directed Edna's path -- she is the daughter of a physician, a UK-trained midwife, the first woman in her country to drive, a former first lady and former foreign minister, and a retired Who Health Organization (WHO) employee -- but the amazing experiences she's had don't compare to the amazing work that she is doing to provide quality healthcare for women and children at the Edna Adan University Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

And I don't even know where to start to tell you about this work. Since Edna cashed in everything she owned to build the hospital, which opened in 2002, she and her team have:

  • Reduced the maternal mortality among their mothers by 75 percent compared to the rest of the country, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world at 1,600 per 100,0000 births;
  • Delivered over 12,000 babies;
  • Repaired close to 300 obstetric fistulas;
  • Treated over 100,000 people in outpatient clinics;
  • Launched an accredited university to train nurses, midwives, lab technicians, pharmacists, and public health professionals;
  • Trained 24 midwives, 30 nurses, and 14 lab technicians; and
  • Hosted over 100 volunteers from around the world.

The Edna Adan University Hospital is not only about providing women and children and the rest of the community with quality healthcare. Through its university programs, Edna is educating women and men, giving them job skills, and, at the same time, sending much-needed medical professionals back out into her country and the world. Yes, her hospital is about maternal, newborn and child health, but it is about women's education, workforce development, and community economic development as well.

All these facts and numbers, as impressive as they are, don't do Edna and her hospital justice. You have to see her smile and the fire in her eyes, and listen to her talk about her patients and this vision of a modern, well-equipped, and efficient health care and training facility that she has made a reality through force of will and lots of sacrifice. Get to know Edna through the Half the Sky Movement website, book, or documentary. Explore her hospital's website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter. And when you fall in love with our friend, Edna Adan, and her life's work -- as we know you will -- you'll want to get involved. That's what the RaiseForWomen Challenge is all about!

About Friends of Edna's Maternity Hospital

Friends of Edna's Maternity Hospital is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that raises funds for the hospital built by Edan Adan Ismail in order to address the grave health problems that endanger the lives of women and children in Somaliland. Founded in 2000 by a group of Americans and Somalilanders living in the U.S., Friends of Edna makes annual grants to the hospital based on its need and maintains an endowment to ensure that the hospital will continue to fulfill its mission for generations to come. For more information, contact Amy Szabo at amy@friendsofedna.org.

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