She died on Wednesday at home in Mogadishu, according to The New York Times.
Abdi, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, helped tens of thousands of people after she built a hospital, school and camp for internally displaced people in Somalia.
The hospital started out as a small, one-room clinic, built on Abdi’s family’s land close to Somalia’s capital, and became a safe haven for those displaced by the country’s civil war, regardless of their historic clan allegiance.
Abdi, one of Somalia’s first female gynaecologist, studied medicine in Kiev, Ukraine, before returning to her home country to practice medicine. She also completed a law degree in Somalia.
In 2010, hundreds of Islamist militants stormed Abdi’s camp, took her hostage and tried to take permanent control of the facilities. Abdi stood her ground and the militants left after a week.
Abdi, known affectionately as Mama Hawa, wrote about this experience and her life in her memoir, Keeping Hope Alive: How One Somali Woman Changed 90,000 Lives, which was published in 2013.
She is survived by her two daughters, Deqo and Amina, who both followed in her footsteps and became doctors and responsible for the running of the camp and hospital.
In a statement shared on Facebook, the president of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, recognised the impact Abdi had had on the lives of thousands of Somali families and the country.
Somalia’s ministry of women tweeted: “Dr. Hawa Abdi stands out as a selfless icon who has spent her life contributing to the betterment of maternal and child health care in Somalia in the midst of tough conditions. Her work has inspired millions across the continent and continues to inspire action across the world.”