Where there’s a book, there’s a way…

Books Help Change Lives in Somaliland

About a year ago our co-founder Xavier Helgesen was reading the New York Times as he often does and came across a story by reporter Nicholas Kristof that he could not ignore.  It was a pretty powerful piece about the severe lack of maternal and child health care in many parts of the world and one woman who was working to change that in the breakaway Somaliland region of Somalia in East Africa.

Her name is Edna Adan Ismail and she is an incredible woman who chose not to retire but instead to work tirelessly to save and improve the lives of women and children.  After a successful career working for the World Health Organization,  Ms. Edna used her pension and sold her Mercedes to build the The Edna Adan Maternity and Teaching Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland where she works every day doing everything from delivering babies to teaching to rounding up surgical masks and supplies.

While this may seem impressive, it is even more impressive to note that Ms. Edna was the first midwife in Somaliland and that she was determined that there be more.  She was just unable to accept conditions in which the most dangerous thing a woman could do was to get pregnant.

As Xavier read the story of Ms. Edna and her teaching hospital and her strength and will, he knew Better World Books had to get involved and do something to help.

And where there’s a book, there’s a way.  We had the books and Ms. Edna had a teaching hospital that he was sure could benefit from having them.  Now to make the connection and figure out the logistics.

Working with Books for Africa, we selected about 6,000 medical books and other college-level books that we figured they could find a good home for in Somaliland, filled up a sea container and sent them to Ms. Edna.  It was a big job getting the books there and an even bigger job for Ms. Edna and the students to sort the books and get them where they could use them most, they couldn’t have been more excited.

“This was the biggest consignment of books ever received and we are all excited about them,” said Ms. Edna in an email to Xavier. “Please extend our deep appreciation to all who collected, packed, shipped, and donated these books to little-known and un-recognised Somaliland, a small country in East Africa, where three and a half million people are looking for basic health care.”

The Nursing, English, and Management textbooks were donated to the nursing students while the remaining medical texts went into the Hospital’s Library and the remainder of the non-medical college level textbooks were distributed to the Universities of Burao, Berbera, and Hargeisa where they could best be used.

It’s not just about books on shelves – it’s about real change.

Ms. Edna said it best in her email:

“Your books have given us the means to train an additional 22 new students in Community Midwifery which is a new category of students we did not train before. These students do not only learn one skill but are trained for 18 months during which they are taught safe practice of Midwifery. This is the first time that this category is being trained for our country and they are being trained for the far and isolated regions and districts of our Somaliland where they will be the only professional health workers in a wide geographical area. We are confident that this training will be a concrete way to reduce the un-acceptably high maternal and child morbidity and mortality rate of these communities.”

The fight for better health care for mothers and babies rages on in many parts of the world and we are so proud to have helped in at least this small way.  For more information on how you can help, visit The Edna Adan Maternity and Teaching Hospital website.


  1. excellent work – thanks

  2. Yusuf Dahir says:

    Thank you Adna for what you have done our country, you have made us proud.

    Yusuf Dahir

  3. khalid hashi says:

    Thank you Adna….

  4. Hakan Ahmed Ali says:

    Somaliland is proud of you edna….keep the good work and i hope somaliland women will learn alot from you….hope we will have more edna’s in the future insha alah

  5. Farah M. Hasson says:

    Edna, this is the way nationalists do for their people during their retirements and even when they are not retired.

  6. Josy MOta Campos says:

    Congratulations Edna Ada! It’s great!:)

  7. This is fantastic!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *