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Somalia's Hawa Abdi, Doctor, Humanitarian, who provided a safe haven for Somali families, dies at 73

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

In times of crises there are very few people who step up to make the world a better place, Dr. Hawa Abdi of Somalia, was one of those people. The Mother Teresa of Africa as some have described her, was Somalia’s first obstetrician and would go on to create the Dr. Hawa Abdi Hope Village. The village was a place for displaced Somalis with a hospital, primary and secondary schools, and an agricultural training hub mostly serving women displaced by the ravages of war.

The village started in the early 1980’s with a one room clinic to help women give birth. Dr. Hawa Abdi’s journey started years earlier when she realized Somalia’s shortcomings in the health care industry. Her mother died at a young age during childbirth and later she herself would lose a child during childbirth. “Childbirth” is literally the perfect term here as her mother and herself were only children while giving birth. She would take these life lessons to Kyiv, Ukraine when Somalia’s Cold War alliance with the Soviet Union allowed for scholarships that would train Somalis in the medical industry. She would return to Somali to work in Mogadishu at a hospital but eventually would return to her family farm to start her clinic.

As Civil war ravaged Somalia, her one room clinic would turn into a refugee camp housing well over 90,000 displaced Somali woman, children, and men. The village would go on to provide institutions normally provided by governments. In order to feed her growing village, Dr. Abdi would sell her personal belongings but as the numbers grew, she would train her residents farming essentials so they can provide food for themselves. Classrooms for children and women would be created to provide education for its residents, providing normalcy for children and literacy classes for women most of them children themselves. As the sick and wounded grew, she began training nurses and doctors to provide healthcare for the village residents.

Her work would go on to be recognized internationally by the United Nations and many other institutions. During a visit to Somalia in 1993, then President George H.W Bush, begin the trip by visiting Dr. Abdi and the village, praising her and the village’s mission. She would go on to win Glamour Magazines “Women of the Year” award and nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. Dr. Abdi’s memoir which was co-written by journalist Sarah J. Robbins, “Keeping Hope Alive” details her amazing life.

In a testament to her hope for a better Somalia she would send a message to an award ceremony she could not attend. “I have given my people my heart and my soul,” “Still I did not lose my hope. One day my people’s lives will change in a better way. I hope my children and the children who grow in camp and are born in the hospital will change the lives of Somali People.”

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