|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives | Search|
Birth In A Nation: African Hospital Founder Describes Conditions
By MATT GALLAGHER
Edna Adan Ismail of Somaliland describes for O’Bleness Memorial Hospital staff members the hospital she operates in her homeland. Looking on is Dr. Jane Broecker.
Athens, Apr 20, 2008 – Moving her hand in front of an automatic faucet at O'Bleness Memorial Hospital, Edna Adan Ismail remarked about her own hospital in Somaliland. "Sometimes we have no water. Adequate water would mean digging a well, which would cost $60,000, so we make due. Water is our heaviest cross to bear because it is so basic."
A former midwife for the World Health Organization and UNICEF, Ismail was also the wife of the president of Somaliland in eastern Africa. Following her husband's death, Ismail took her retirement savings and invested it into a dream she has had since the age of 11. Seeing the devastation in her country following a bloody civil war in late 1980s and 1990s, Ismail used her retirement to fund the building of the Edna Adam Maternity Hospital six years ago. The area's former hospital was destroyed during the war.
Ismail was in Athens this week for the African Health Summit at Ohio University, of which she was the keynote speaker. Ismail toured O'Bleness Memorial Hospital on Thursday, getting a detailed view of the maternity ward, meeting with doctors and nurses and discussing the world of medicine.
"This is a seven-star hotel," Ismail told the hospital personnel. "You have been very blessed. I want your hospital to fit in my suitcase so I can take it home.
"We all have a river to cross," Ismail continued. "With this hospital, you have a yacht. We have a rowboat. But there are some people who have no boat at all."
While opening her own hospital has been a lifelong dream, there are times it gets to be a nightmare. In Somaliland, one out of eight babies dies before the age of 12 months. Every year, more than 4,000 women die in childbirth. One of five children dies before the age of 5. The average life expectancy in Somaliland is only 48 years.
"It has been difficult, but I wouldn't have it any other way," Ismail said. "For all the joy I get, there's no bank big enough in the world to house it. I've been blessed. We all have a responsibility to each other. Those who have more, who have been blessed, have a responsibility to share it, even if all there is to share is a little encouragement."
But her country is full of tragedy. The civil war which demolished the country's infrastructure of hospitals also left behind mass graves, many with the bones of small children. Ismail carries pictures of unearthed mass graves in her purse to show others the horror that has taken place through the war.
"If there are human beings who can put children in mass graves, there must also be people who can build hospitals," Ismail said. "Ask yourself, what kind of world do you want to live in?"
Her hospital needs better x-rays, better laboratories and a well for water. The hospital particularly needs a mammogram machine, as there is not a single one in the entire country.
"If I could wave a magic wand, these are the things I would ask for," Ismail said.
There was magic in the air Thursday. Dr. Michael Clark informed her that a mammogram machine could be arranged at no cost to her hospital, as well as x-ray machines, ultrasound machines and other equipment. Clark explained that he has contacts through General Electric, which donates used hospital equipment to write-off as a tax credit.
"I'd expect to get it for nothing," Clark told Ismail. "You could have an ultrasound machine right now. We'll just have to figure out how to ship it to you."
It's equipment she can definitely use. Her hospital's birthing room contains three beds, each separated by a curtain. The hospital assists in the births of more than 100 babies a month, usually involving pregnancies that have shown complications. That amounts to about 1,200 babies a year. O'Bleness, by comparison, handles an average of 600 births a year. Since her hospital opened six years ago, it has assisted in the births of 7,500 babies.
"It's got to be done," Ismail said. "Any woman who dies during childbirth is a woman who should never have died."
Source The Athens Messenger.