The what, why and how of health and development

Building communities of peace in Somalia: one doctor’s story of taking the law into her own hands

The amount of bravery and determination to set up a medical clinic in the midst of a civil war is more than most of us could envisage.

Now imagine running a medical clinic, a school and a small jail for oppressive husbands in a camp of 90,000 people. That was the task taken up by doctor Hawa Abdi many decades ago when Somalia broke out in civil war, and the camp has been the centre of her life and that of her two daughters, also doctors, ever since.

In a morning they could have 400 patients wanting to be seen and they might do 20 operations a day – sometimes with only 5 doctors and 60 nurses working.

But the clinic have rules about who can be treated.

“First, there is no clan and political division in Somalian society,” said Hawa Abdi in a talk held by TEDwomen. “Who thinks this is thrown out. The second, no man may beat his wife. If he beat, we put him in jail.”

The clinic then make sure the man is dealt with by the elders before they release him. The focus of the camp is about supporting women and children.

“I have realised that the woman is most strong person all over the world,” said Hawa Abdi.

“The last twenty years, the Somalian women have stood up and we are the leaders of our community and the hope of our future generations. We are not just helpless victims of the civil war. we can do anything.”

Watch Hawa and her daughter talk here:


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