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USA: Speaker to Address African Health Struggles

The keynote speaker for today’s African Health Summit was once the foreign minister to the United Nations, the first lady of Somalia and the first medically trained midwife and nurse in her country.

But for Edna Adan Ismail, 70, her greatest accomplishment was the creation of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in an enclave of Somalia known as Somaliland. She donated her U.N. pension and other personal assets to build the hospital, where more than 7,000 babies have been born since it opened six years ago.

The health summit will “shine a light” on the contributions Ohio University students and faculty have made to health problems in Africa and will consist of two panel discussions. The summit will also present graduate programs, travel opportunities and job possibilities for graduates, said Steve Howard, director of African studies.

“We’re asking ‘how is the health of Africa,’” Howard said. “In African countries and even here in the United States, we greet people with ‘how are you.’ And what is that, but essentially a health question?” Ismail’s keynote address is titled, “Female Genital Mutilation: Where are we after thirty years of struggle against it?” Of all the women who have been treated in her hospital, about 97 percent have had some form of FGM, Ismail said.

Many in Somaliland believe that female circumcision is a religious obligation for Muslim women, but to Ismail traditional mutilation isn’t a tenet of Islam.

FGM refers to the partial or complete removal of female genitalia, which can lead to infections, hemorrhages and difficulty during intercourse and childbirth. Worldwide, about 3 million women undergo FGM each year, while some 100 to 140 million have already undergone the procedure, according the United Nations. Participants in the health summit and Ismail will discuss ways to end the practice of FGM throughout the world and touch on other health problems, such as HIV and AIDS.

“You have to go to the villages and talk with people,” Ismail said. “I tell them that virginity is not kept by stitches or thorns, but by parents teaching girls to respect herself, and you need to get religious leaders’ support.”

The free event is sponsored by the Center for African Studies, the Institute for the African Child and the School of Health Sciences.

SOURCE: The Post

URL: Click here

DATE: 18/04/2008

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