Mother Teresa of Somalia Fights Famine With Her Own Means

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By Alexis Garrett Stodghill

Dr. Hawa Abdi began her humanitarian efforts in her native Somalia by opening a one-room hospital for women on her 1,300 acre farm. Twenty years later, her home is now a sprawling camp supporting 100,000 people seeking refuge from the country’s  war-torn, famine-ravaged surroundings. Children are tragically facing the highest risks there, as seven youngsters a day die under Dr. Abdi’s care from starvation. No humanitarian organization will come to her aid, because of the extreme danger of the region.

Despite these challenges, Mama Hawa — as her flock calls her — persists in trying to feed and provide medical care to the families under her protection. She and her two daughters, both medical doctors, administer to these needy by teaching farming and fishing, providing education and day care, and even giving free water and space those near her hospital. Such services are available only at a price in most of Somalia today, as anarchy and conflict have made the preservation of life a luxury most people choose to profit from.

While she has maintained the camp successfully until now, Dr. Hawa Abdi’s challenges might become insurmountable if financial aid is not forthcoming soon. A worsening drought in East Africa has killed all the animals on the farm, and it is feared that the people are next. The Daily Beast reports:

Right now, however, the camp, and the country, have reached a new level of crisis. Hawa needs help—a lot of it. She is receiving no food help—none—from any international organization. In the past, the International Red Cross and World Food Program have helped supply food when things get bad. Doctors Without Borders, and others, have run a clinic and supplied basic medicine.

Every international aid organization has now abandoned her, in part because of the political challenges of reaching the camp, which is located in an area under the control of the militant forces of the al-Qaeda inspired group, al-Shabaab. However, for the most part, since Hawa successfully defended the camp from their attack in May 2010,  the militants have left her largely alone.

Hawa’s work is not political. It’s entirely humanitarian, and even the militants seem to get that. Or perhaps they’re a bit scared of this 64-year-old lawyer, doctor, survivor of brain cancer: a force of nature who buried more than 10,000 people during the famine of the 1990s.

Back then, she says, they had international help. Now, she’s on her own.

According to, a group called Vital Voices has joined with “Glamour magazine to help support Dr. Hawa Abdi’s cause through their Women of the Year Fund initiative.” Through their web site, you can make a contribution that will help Dr. Hawa Abdi prevent 49 children a week from dying of malnutrition, while granting countless life-affirming opportunities to others. She and her daughters have remained in their struggling land to assist those who cannot fend for themselves, risking their lives in the process. If the international aid community will not contribute to their cause, citizens of the world who care can and should.

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