Edna Adan Ismail

Founder and CEO Edna Adan University Hospital and Chancellor, Edna Adan University, Hargeisa, Somaliland

Edna was born in British Somaliland Protectorate and trained in the UK between 1954-1961 becoming the first qualified Nurse/Midwife in Somaliland and Somalia (Trained at: Borough Polytechnic/University of the South Bank, West London Hospital, Hammersmith Hospital, Clare Hall Hospital, St. Marks Hospital, Lewisham Hospital and West Middlesex Hospital).

In 1965 appointed by WHO to train midwives in Libya but returned home when husband became Prime Minister of Somalia in 1967-1969 and served as her country’s First Lady.

Between 1976-79 was first woman appointed to position of Director in the Ministry of Health. Started campaign against FGM in spite of great opposition and continues to fight the practice to this day.

1986, was again recruited by WHO as Regional Nursing and Midwifery Adviser. From 1987 to 1991, became WHO Technical Officer for the Eastern Mediterranean Region responsible for Maternal and Child Health including Gender issues and Harmful Practices such as FGM. Also earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing, Clayton University, USA 1988.

From 1991 to 1997, was WHO Representative in Republic of Djibouti until retirement. In 1998, studied Health Care in Developing Countries, Boston University, USA.

Upon retirement from WHO, built and opened in 2002 the ‘Edna Adan Hospital’ in Somaliland. The hospital is a major referral facility and a teaching hospital for nurses, midwives and other health professionals including medical students and Anaesthesia Technicians.

Received numerous awards amongst which:

  • Commandeur Dans l’Ordre National du 27 Juin, Republic of Djibouti, 1997.
  • Honorary Doctoral Degree from Clark University, Massachusetts, USA, (2002),
  • Honorary Fellow, Cardiff University School of Nursing (2008),
  • Chancellor’s Gold Medal for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa, 2010
  • Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from Ahfad University for Women, Sudan, 2013
  • Honorary Doctor of Science Degree, University of Pennsylvania, USA, May 2014
  • Recipient, Renfield Award for Global Health, University of Pennsylvania, USA, May, 2014.
  • Knighted by President Sarkozy ‘Chevalierdans l’ordre Nationale de la Legion d’Honneur’of France, 2010.
  • Entered to Medical Mission Hall of Fame, University of Ohio, USA, 2007
  • Entered to Hall of Fame, Women in Emergency Situations, Florida, 2013
  • December 2013, was named among the 100 most Influential people in Africa. 




Between 2002 and 2003 was the first and only woman Minister in the Government of Somaliland and served as Minister of Social Affairs and Family Welfare. Between 2003 and 2006, was Somaliland’s Foreign Minister.

In 2012, opened the Edna Adan University which trains Nurses, Midwives, Laboratory Technicians, Pharmacists, Anaesthetists and Public Health students.

Serves on many national and international commissions among which are:

  • Presidential Commission on Higher Education, Somaliland
  • President, organization for Victims of Torture
  • President, Somaliland Family Health Association
  • Council Member, Hargeisa University, Somaliland
  • Founder and Chancellor, Edna Adan University, Hargeisa, Somaliland
  • Board Member, Somaliland Development Corporation
  • UK Council Member, Lancet Global Commission on Safe Surgery
  • Chair, Hargeisa Water Supply Board