Founder: Edna Adan

Country: Somaliland

Area of Work: Maternal Health

Impact: Trained 167 midwives and 2 physicians, Bought 2 solar suitcases, Bought 2 hospital beds, 10 c-sections

Years in Partnership: 13

Edna Adan Hospital Foundation, Somaliland


Edna Adan

Founder of the Edna Adan Hospital Foundation

"Our connection with ConnectHer has been long and has helped us on many occasions with the training of midwives in Somaliland as well as providing us with assistance to cover the cost of treatment and deliveries for poor women."

Train midwives to save lives and promote healthier outcomes for mothers and infants.

Support Edna Adan—featured in the book and PBS series Half the Sky—in her dream of training 1,000 midwives in her native Somaliland. She sends her trained  midwives to work in villages across Somaliland, a country that has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Midwives are trained to provide prenatal care, to treat preeclampsia, difficult births, and to encourage mothers to immunize their children. She is more than halfway toward her goal. Your support will help save the lives of countless women and infants.

When Edna returned to her native Somaliland after a high-powered career with the World Health Organization, she found her homeland in disarray, its health care system destroyed by the civil war with Somalia. She built the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital, where she and her dedicated staff have saved lives and improved health outcomes for countless women and babies.

In the 2012 PBS special, “Half the Sky,” we learn that Somaliland has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world. According to Edna Adan Hospital, approximately 4,000 mothers die in childbirth each year. Many factors lead to these disturbing numbers, made worse due to the country’s practice of female genital manipulation (FGM). 

The unfortunate ritual of FGM stems largely from cultural traditions used within patriarchal societies as a way to control women and their sexualities and keep them submissive to men. Roughly 99% of women in Somaliland suffer from the harmful effects of female circumcision: Their intact genitalia are deemed too promiscuous and “dirty” and thus need to be removed to become “pure,” enhancing her beauty and cleanliness so she is more eligible for marriage. The practice continues partly due to a lack of education to discredit these antiquated notions. Fortunately for her homeland, ConnectHER partner, Edna Adan Ismail, has dedicated her life to becoming a teacher.



Some die at our doorsteps. Some die shortly after admission. We are overwhelmed by what needs to be done. Unless we can spread the knowledge of midwifery throughout the country, we will continue to have situations like this happening. [...] [The traditional practices] of female genital cutting that obstructs, that scars the passage that the child should be born through, it adds to the complications that women have.

As a women’s health advocate, nurse and midwife, Ms. Adan saw the destruction of her country after the civil war and knew she needed to be a part of the solution. Leaving her career as a midwife trainer with the World Health Organization, she returned to provide aid and resources to Somaliland by establishing a maternal facility. 


The Edna Hospital took a lifetime to be born. In fact, the idea of building it has been with me since I was 11 years old. I started building it in 1997 after I retired. It took four years to build and opened in March 2002.

From its inception, Ms. Adan has made it the hospital’s goal to combat the country’s high maternal deaths by educating as many health professionals as she can, with a dream of training 1,000 midwives and dispatching them throughout various communities within the region. The hospital’s impact isn’t only rooted in medical practices but also further enlightens its society on the harmful effects of FGM, encouraging citizens to join the fight to end the widespread tradition.

Knowledge is the biggest gift. It’s the gift of knowledge that was given to me [..] that is helping me today to help women. I have lost many things in my life. I have broken many things in my life, but knowledge has remained with me, and I have been able to build on it, improve on it, and pass it on to generations.


More than 30,000 babies have since been born at the Edna Adan Hospital, and this year, two new projects are on the horizon to ensure proper treatment of the mothers and babies before, during and after birth. To better understand the current state of childbirth, Ms. Adan hopes to produce a national research project to capture recent mothers’ delivery experiences. Using data analysis and fieldwork, she will extrapolate findings and apply insights to update training materials and processes.

We’re proud to be partnering with Ms. Adan on another initiative centered around women either with placenta previa (a condition where the placenta covers the cervix) or ectopic pregnancies (an inviable pregnancy where a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus). These diagnoses are extremely harmful to both mother and child, with symptoms including possible ruptures, major internal bleeding in the mother, preterm birth or perinatal death. Through ConnectHER Grants, women will receive free C-sections, the recommended procedure to avoid further complications.

It’s through these initiatives and partnerships that the “Mother Teresa of Somaliland” continues to cultivate her lasting impact on her country and the generations of families whose lives she is forever changing by simply giving them a chance to start.


I think childbirth is that moment when, particularly when you followed that pregnancy from nothing, for months, and you hear that heartbeat. You hear a life inside another human being. And to hear it cry and breathe, that’s when you feel the power of God. It’s the miracle of life. And it brings you that much closer to your Creator.

Edna Adan Ismail is a nurse, midwife, founder and retired United Nations civil servant. A former First Lady and first female Foreign Minister of an Independent Somaliland, Ms. Adan is considered one of the most influential women in Africa today. What began as a small, maternal facility for training midwives, the Edna Adan Hospital now functions as a major medical referral institution with over 1,500 students, 70% of whom are women. Over the years she has received many accolades for her dedication to championing women’s health rights, advocating for the care of children, campaigning for peace, and most recently received the 2023 Templeton Prize of Excellence for her outstanding efforts in healthcare and women’s rights in Somaliland.