Dr. Hawa Abdi

Dr. Hawa Abdi is a physician and human rights activist who established the Rural Health Development Organisation (RHDO) to serve rural Somali women. Despite the bloody civil war which erupted in the early ‘90’s, Abdi remained in Somalia establishing a new clinic as well as a school for displaced children and orphans. In 2007, Abdi transformed the RHDO into the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation (DHAF) which she runs with her two daughters. The DHAF expanded its operations to include a relief camp that has provided health services, shelter, and food for over 2 million Somalis and up to 90,000 people at once during the drought of 2011. Abdi has been called “the Mother Teresa of Somalia” and has received various accolades for her service including a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2012.

Illustration by Christopher Schroeder

Somalia

When refugees would come to Hawa’s camp for help she would ask that they did not claim any particular clan loyalty and instead embraced equality in being Somali. The tactic of placing the national identity above allegiance to local factions was an effective way of reducing violent encounters within the camp. The portrait references Dr. Abdi’s personal philosophy and the fact that she is often seen wearing bright and elaborate head wraps.

Total Area
637,657 km2

Demonym
Somali

Government
Federal Parliamentary republic

Population
11,077,439

Capital
Mogadishu

GDP (PPP)
$600