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My Cardiff

Edna Adan Ismail

2008 Honorary Fellow Edna Adan Ismail reflects on her long-held ambition to build a hospital in Somaliland and discovers new opportunities at Cardiff University

Edna Adan Ismail

Mrs Edna Adan Ismail

The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital is something I had wanted to create since I was 11 years old. My father was the first doctor in Somaliland, so I grew up in an environment with patients, sick people and emergencies. My life ambition was that one day I would build the kind of hospital my father would have liked to have worked in.

My life has been devoted to improving healthcare in Africa and the surrounding regions. I became the first qualified midwife in Somalia in 1961, and was later appointed by the World Health Organisation to serve in Libya as nurse educator. I returned to Somalia in 1967 when my husband became Prime Minister of Somalia and I became the First Lady.

I started to build the first maternity hospital in 1986, but in life, other priorities can often get in the way. Civil War broke out in 1988 and my family and I had to flee the county.

It was only after I retired in 1997 from a long career with the United Nations and the World Health Organisation that I was able to finally build the hospital in Hargeysa, Somaliland - my home country, which had been destroyed as a result of the civil war. The hospital, my life-long ambition was most needed at that point.

My plan was to build the maternity hospital first. Now the hospital caters for everyone. We have men. We have women. We have children. We have emergencies. We have casualties. We are a referral hospital and a teaching hospital. Itís something I feel is inspiring a lot of people to take up the nursing profession. Itís giving jobs to women. Itís teaching women. Itís training women. Itís empowering them to earn a profession, earn a living and bring up children.

If an old woman can build a hospital then anybody can do anything.

Iíd never been to Cardiff University until I became an Honorary Fellow, but itís very well known and highly respected. It has a great School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies, and during my time here I would really like to learn how we can motivate nurses in my country. I want to see what the University is doing and build a sisterhood for our nursing schools. That would help us in Somalia to raise our level of training nurses - it gives us a role model to reach for. One day, perhaps nurses in Somaliland can be as well trained as those in Cardiff.

If I can continue to inspire others to take up the nursing profession, or to care for the sick then my ambition in life would be completed.

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