TEDxMOGADISHU: DR DEQO TAKES THE STAGE

 

Yesterday saw the return of TEDxMogadishu, bigger and better than ever!  Fifteen speakers presented narratives filled with energy, optimism and progress in a city on the rise.  Among these was Dr Deqo Mohamed, CEO of the Dr Hawa Abdi Foundation, one of three charitable organisations supported by our documentary.  You can watch Deqo’s discourse in full on the TEDx website but we wanted to share some of the highlights.  Below is a summary to give you a flavour of the talk:

Dr Hawa Abdi, Deqo said, is not only her mother, but part of the heritage of Somalia – someone who all Somalis treasure.

She’s a great hero of mine, and she’s a visionary.

Twenty-three years ago, when war erupted, Dr Hawa had a choice: to leave the country or to stay and re-create the Somalia of her youth, a country she loved.  She chose the latter. As people fled Mogadishu, Mama Hawa saw their needs and moved to Afgooye to care for them – to provide the healthcare, food and shelter urgently needed. By 2007, there were more than 90,000 refugees living on her land (1% of the total population of Somalia).  Hope Village, as it came to be known, was unique for its absence of clan division.

Growing up in her mother’s hospital, at the age of 15 Deqo first delivered a baby.  This was not because she inherited her mother’s medical expertise, but because of the circumstances at the time.  What Deqo has inherited is her mother’s passion to help restore Somalia to the peaceful and prosperous place it once was.  For years, she and her colleagues would wake up at 4am, do the best they could to cater to the medical needs of those waiting at the door of the hospital, go to bed late into the night, and start the whole process over again the following day.

I am very proud to give 1,305 people food and a good night’s sleep.  That’s what makes me happy.

By 2013, roughly half the inhabitants of Hope Village had returned to Mogadishu.  Today, there are 40,230 residents and 87 employees who run a 400-bed general hospital, a primary school, a women’s education centre, a community health programme and a smart farming agricultural project.  Over the years, they have become a family who care for their own city.

As well as providing access to healthcare, education is a key priority for the Dr Hawa Abdi Foundation.  When it was opened in 2009, the daycare school provided education and nutrition for 890 children.  At the time, there were 37,000 of school age living in the village.  Today, 380 children are enrolled.  Residents are carrying out cooperative farming, learning to grow and cultivate their own food.   The village is moving from an emergency situation to one of sustainability.  This, Deqo says, is the theme of #MogadishuRising.

I want to see Somalia rising like the Moringa tree.

Deqo believes that the best place to start is with the mothers.  The mothers are the future in the sense that educating a mother leads to more educated, healthier children.  She says Somalis need to think beyond today.  They need to think in terms of 50 years from now.   When you impact one person, you impact 15 others who depend on that one person.  For example, Faisal (in the audience) arrived in the village at the age of 14.  Now, he’s 19, a trained lab technician who is supporting his family.  Anabey (also in the audience) was born in the village in 1998.  Already she is a leader, an inspiration, who will, next year, start high school.

To watch Dr Deqo Mohamed’s talk in full, visit the TEDxMogadishu website here.  To read more about the work of the Dr Hawa Abdi Foundation, read the 2014 programme booklet here.

 

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