Training in Somaliland with ‘A Woman of Firsts’

In March 2022, we were honoured to train 34 healthcare workers in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Here, our CEO Elly Nott shares how this HEST course came to fruition and how it marks the beginning of a special relationship with a very special hospital. 

Over Christmas, I came across a book. ‘A Woman of Firsts’ is Edna Adan Ismail’s inspiring story of how she became a pioneering political and global health leader and campaigner for women’s rights. The respect and affection in which she is held in her home country, Somaliland, is truly remarkable and witnessed wherever one goes with her.

Building an empire

In 1998, she began building a hospital on an empty patch of land in the capital of Somaliland, Hargeisa. Through her will and determination, the foundations Edna established became a maternity hospital, which has since diversified into a major referral institution.

The Edna Adan Hospital treats obstetric, paediatric, surgical and medical cases from across the Horn of Africa. The Edna Adan University provides skilled healthcare workers to work in the hospital and other institutions in Somaliland, consistently occupying the top of the teaching league tables.

When I contacted Edna and asked if she would be interested in us running a HEST course at her hospital, she welcomed the idea straight away.

From the moment we arrived in Somaliland, we felt the warmth of Edna’s hospitality and all the inspirational healthcare workers who had travelled from across the country to participate in our training. Our outstanding faculty enjoyed sharing knowledge and techniques that would make a real difference to the participants’ management of traumatic injuries.

A need for well-trained surgeons

There is a real need for our partnership. A 2020 paper for the Lancet written by Dr Shukri Dahir et al, concluded that ‘the surgical system in Somaliland did not reach any of the target indicator goals as defined by LCoGS’ [Lancet Commission on Global Surgery]. The greatest need was for protection against catastrophic expenditure for low-income families on medical care and access to well-trained surgeons, anaesthetists and obstetricians.

The HEST course was just the start of our collaboration. In the coming months, we will welcome the doctors we met to the UK for our next Train the Trainers course. This time, they will teach alongside our UK-based faculty. We will also continue to work with the dedicated healthcare workers of Somaliland to support their training and ensure local people have access to safe, skilled surgical care.

By chance, our course coincided with International Women’s Day (IWD). A solid third of the participants in this HEST course were women and we were delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to their surgical careers. To spend IWD 2022 in the company of Edna, and the healthcare workers she has inspired and mentored, was truly an honour.

More on our HEST course in Somaliland