How Others Help: Organizations from Half the Sky
Today, we often are bombarded with upsetting stories of violence and politics happening throughout the world on the internet, our daily televised news stations, the radio, and in newspapers and articles that we read. In the book Half the Sky, written by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, true stories regarding the horrific reality young girls and women are faced with in underprivileged countries across the world are brought to its reader’s attention. Although these stories are not the easiest to read, emotionally, what is inspiring is the work of organizations dedicated to helping these young girls and women. The book includes a number of organizations focused in aiding females in these parts of the world. There were two specific organizations that stood out to me while reading Half the Sky, as their mission has been successful in providing medical care to girls and women who have endured suffering related to sexual violence and inadequate maternal care. The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital and HEAL Africa charitable organizations have taken great strides in providing the necessary services to help girls and women recover; ultimately saving their life. (Please note: According to Half the Sky, it is the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital, however, according the organizations website, (www.ednahospital.org), the name is Edna Adan University Hospital. For this essay, I will be using the name as referenced in Half the Sky.) 1. Edna Adan Maternity Hospital
The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital began construction on January 1st, 1998 and opened its doors on March 9th, 2002 in Hargeisa, Somaliland. The idea for this hospital was that of Edna Adan Ismail, who now holds the title of Director at this hospital. Edna grew up in Hargeisa, herself, and came from one of the more fortunate families in this community. Edna had a newborn brother who passed away due to being dropped on his head by a midwife. When she was eight years old, Edna was forced to follow the Somali tradition of female circumcision (cutting of the genitals). I can imagine that it is these two events early in her life that led Edna to want something different
for others. As it was not a ritual for girls to attend school in Hargeisa, Edna was fortunate to be able to attend a primary school in Djibonti, but once she approached her teenage years, she was sent back home to work as interpreter to a British doctor. Here, Edna learned a lot and eventually became a part of the World Health Organization. Upon retiring from the World Health Organization, Edna pursued her passion to open a hospital in Hargeisa. As quoted from the organizations website, “The Edna Adan University Hospital is situated in Hargeisa, Republic of Somaliland. The hospital is a non-profit charity that was built by Edna Adan Ismail who donated her UN pension and other personal assets to build the hospital in order to address the grave health problems that endanger the lives of women and children in the Horn of Africa.”(EdnaHospital.org). With the help of a group of people eager to help from the United States, Friends of Edna’s Hospital, additional donations were received and the hospital was completed. As explained in the text of Half the Sky, numerous organizations pull together to gather the supplies needed to keep the hospital functioning. These include, but are not limited to: UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations Refugee Agency. (Kristof and WuDunn, Half the Sky.) The hospital focuses to help women in the community receive adequate health care, especially maternal care.
This story of a woman in labor from Half the Sky helps put into perspective the mentality of female importance during birth in Hargeisa: “Once a man drove through the hospital’s front gate with his wife in labor in the backseat. The baby emerged just as they arrived, and so the man tried to drive right out again.”(Kristof and WuDunn, Half the Sky.) As we read, the man believed that just because the baby was delivered, everyone was fine, and there was no need for medical attention for his wife or baby. In this excerpt from Half the Sky (Kristof and WuDunn, 128.), the personal story is continued, and we see how Edna’s passion for the organization saved their life: “No! No!” Edna shouted at him. “You’ll kill your wife. The placenta still has to come out.” “I won’t pay you,” the man shouted back. “I’m leaving.” “Close the gate!” Edna shouted to the guard, blocking the car from leaving. Then Edna turned to the husband. “Forget about the payment,” she said, and she pulled out the placenta right there in the backseat before opening the gate and allowing him to go.
Although this personal story gives us a glimpse into the work and success done by the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital, the organizations website provides additional research regarding exactly what they do. It includes this statistic referencing how it has helped decrease the maternal and child morbidity and mortality rate: “Maternal Mortality reduced from national rate of 1,600/100,000 to 402.6/100,000 hospital rate in spite of receiving terminally ill patients referred from elsewhere, many of whom could have been saved if they had arrived at the hospital early enough.”(EdnaHospital.org). This in itself, along with the various medical services offered to women in need, is clear in proving the positive impact the organization has. This provides us with evidence of its success. On a final note, it is important to point out how the hospital has changed. Its website informs us: “In the first phase, the Hospital was designed to be a Maternity Hospital. Because of necessity and demand from the community, the hospital services were expanded to accommodate pediatrics, adult medical male and female patients. As a result the hospital has incurred additional running costs as well as food, beds, equipment and staff.”(EdnaHospital.org) Also on the website is a detailed explanation of how the hospital is funded specifically and where the donations are spent throughout the hospital. It is evident the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital is one of a kind, and a vital resource to those in Somaliland who are in need of its purpose. 2. HEAL Africa
HEAL Africa is a United States organization that runs a hospital in Goma, Congo. From its website, this is how the United States involvement is explained: “HEAL Africa™ is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization in the USA that partners with and supports HEAL Africa, a Congo-based non-governmental organization registered in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The HEAL Africa organization in the Congo is also affiliated with HEAL Canada, a charity based in Canada, and with an affiliated organization with non-profit status pending in the UK.”(HEALAfrica.org) In Congo, it is considered to be acceptable for male soldiers to inflict sexual violence upon young girls and women. These actions have created a cause for an organization such as HEAL Africa. This organization was founded by a married couple: a Congolese doctor named Jo Lusi, and his wife, Lyn, who is from England (Kristof and WuDunn, Half the Sky, 90.). At this hospital, they repair fistulas (holes in the rectum and bladder caused by forced trauma) that are created from sexual violence, and they provide care to rape victims. According the organizations website (HEALAfrica.org), “A study published by the American Journal of Public Health in May 2011 states that roughly 400,000 rapes are committed each year in the DR Congo. In one month alone this year, staff supported by Heal Africa reported 630 new rape cases from just 8 of our 31 safe houses.” Given this information, we see the need for their efforts.
When visiting the website, you are able to learn vast details regarding HEAL Africa as a whole. The following information provided by the website (HEALAFrica.org) gives us an insight into the programs that have available to help women in Congo: “Gender and Justice: Supports the premise that the law must express the collective will of the community and be enforced by the judicial system. Also, that existing women’s rights must be actively exercised by them.” “Heal My People: This “frontlines” program helps identify survivors of rape and connects them with vital medical, psychological, and social recovery programs.” “Safe Motherhood: Women can belong to maternity micro-insurance groups to ensure that they receive proper medical care from prenatal screening through delivery. Locally managed, each member pays into the program and receives care from quality health providers—many trained by HEAL Africa medical staff. Contraception and safe birthing are major areas of education and support.” “Women’s Centers: These safe houses offer access to medical care, counseling, and training in a secure setting.”
Given these descriptions, we are made aware that they have created these programs for a reason, being the need for them. The programs are continuously funded through donations, proving they are successful. Final pieces of evidence proving its success are these facts taken from their website (HEALAfrica.org): “Nearly 40,000 women have received post-rape treatment, counseling, and support since 2003; more than 2,684 surgeries took place last year alone; 2,000 fistula repair surgeries since 2003; 80,000 community activists trained in HIV/AIDS prevention and care; over 1,000 families affected by HIV/AIDS received micro-grants; thousands of
women provided access to safer birthing; preliminary findings show a 99% decrease in maternal mortality in communities using Safe Motherhood program.” Half the Sky provides us with a personal story of a young girl aided by HEAL Africa. Dina is seventeen years old and lives in Kindu. As Dina quoted, “It’s more important to educate boys.”(Kristof and WuDunn, Half the Sky, 85.) With this said, Dina did not attend school and worked on her family’s farm. In continuing the reading, we are educated on Dina’s life; understanding that she is afraid of walking to her family’s farm to tend to the crop, as the Hutu Interahamwe militia is in the area. As the story progresses, we are given a horrific description of Dina’s rape by five men in the Hutu militia. They are armed with guns, knives, and one mad with a stick. After being raped by each of the five men, she is held down and one man shoves the stick inside of her. When found by her father and friends in the community, Dina is taken home to be cared for, as they could not afford to take her to a hospital. She is now paralyzed, and has a fistula from both her rectum to her vagina, as well as her bladder to her vagina, caused by the stick. On page 85, Dina comments about the soldiers who raped her, “My people had no tribal conflict with them. Their only purpose was to rape me and leave me bleeding and leaking wastes.”(Kristof and WuDunn, Half the Sky.) Dina’s family was informed by neighbors of HEAL Africa.
Her family contacted them, and they sent a missionary plane to bring Dina to their hospital. This was at the expense of Heal Africa. When Dina arrived, she was one of dozens of women in the hospital, all like her, incontinent due to fistulas. Here, she began physical therapy to start walking again, and had two surgeries, each to fix her fistulas. Without HEAL Africa, Dina would have never received help due to the cost. HEAL Africa has an annual budget of $1.4 million, with more than one third of this coming from individual Americans; only 2% of these donations go towards overhead and administrative expenses, the rest being put back into the hospital.(Kristof and WuDunn, Half the Sky, 92.). Along with giving the women it serves proper medical attention, they also teach them a skill during their stay. Sewing, reading, and making bread are just a few examples of these skills. Once they are ready to go back to their community, HEAL Africa gives them the raw materials needed for their skill, to allow them to be able to bring in an income for their family. This is yet another way this organization is successful in making a better life for the women of Congo. The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital and HEAL Africa are just two of many organizations created to help young girls and women who are in need. Sexual violence and inadequate medical care for women in these communities has been an ongoing battle. Fortunately, they have been given resources to aid them in finding the care they need within these organizations. It is, undoubtedly, people like those working in these organizations that will make this world a better place.
“Edna Adan University Hospital, Somaliland, East Africa.” Edna Adan University Hospital, Somaliland, East Africa. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Aug. 2013. <http://www.ednahospital.org/>.
“HEAL Africa | Providing care for the people of DR Congo.” HEAL Africa | Providing care for the people of DR Congo. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Aug. 2013. <http://www.healafrica.org/>.
Kristof, Nicholas D., and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide. New York: Vintage Books, 2009. Print.