Nominee cited for decades of service to thousands fleeing war, famine

Dr. Hawa Abdi of Somalia has been nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for her decades of humanitarian service to, and peace building work with thousands of Somalis fleeing civil war and, most recently, famine induced by the recent drought, the worst in 60 years.

Through the Hawa Abdi Foundation Dr. Abdi, 63, and her two physician daughters, provide medical care and refuge to all regardless of clan, religious or political affiliation.

“Dr. Abdi is a woman of extraordinary strength, courage, and tenacity, who has created a safe haven for internal refugees from the protracted conflict in her country,” the AFSC wrote in its nomination letter.  

Her work began in 1983, when she opened a one-room women’s clinic on her family’s farm, frequently using her own resources to provide care free of charge. Since then her operation has grown to include a 400-bed hospital and an 800-student school and adult education facility which offers literacy and health classes for women. The community of about 90,000 mostly women and children is one of the largest camps for internally displaced people in Somalia.

Even as major international aid agencies have fled the country when workers were kidnapped, tortured and killed, she has chosen to stay and provide some measure of safety, food, water, medical care, and education for those living in the compound. The women are taught to farm and fish, and the young men are trained as nursing assistants and security workers as well.

Dr. Abdi has demonstrated the strength of nonviolent resistance through decades of upheaval, facing down armed forces despite imprisonment and death threats. She has co-created with the residents a community that models self-sufficiency, inclusion and cooperation as an alternative to a militarized society built on exclusion, exploitation and domination.   

“The Somali people are in dire circumstances. Dr. Abdi and her daughters have rallied international support … to rebuild their facilities and to establish feeding centers… but it is not enough,” wrote the AFSC.

“The timeliness and visibility afforded by the recognition of Dr. Abdi by awarding her the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize may well help her ‘keep hope alive’ for millions of Somalis who have had to leave their homes and homelands.”

In 1947, AFSC and the British Friends Service Council accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of “Quakers everywhere.” Peace Prize laureates have the privilege to nominate candidates for this honor.