As Yemen enters its fifth year of conflict, the health sector is collapsing. Only half of all health facilities are functional and even these face severe shortages in medicine, equipment, and staff. Most of the health workers have not received a salary in the last three years. As a result, basic services have been disrupted, especially in rural areas, leaving 19.7 million people in need of basic healthcare, including 10.2 million children. Children bear the heaviest burden with a child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes, including malnutrition and vaccine-preventable diseases.
Community health worker networks have been set up to provide basic quality health and nutrition services to the children of Yemen, even in the most remote areas. The objective is to improve community resilience, support poor households in seeking care and reduce inequities between urban and rural areas.
Training women to save lives
Bashaier Saleh Ali, 20-year old, Bashaier works as a health worker since April 2018 in “Bani Zayed” village in “Manakhah” district, Sana’a governorate.
Bashaier describes the struggle she faces during her trips from a village to another, she has to walk for hours with her medicines loaded bag through rugged roads to reach nearby villages, but these struggles didn’t stop her from doing her job and help those in need.
My work helps the community when it comes to treating people and educating them, I do house-to-house visits to raise awareness and educate villagers on many topics such as “proper hygiene kit use, cholera prevention, malnutrition symptoms, etc. I visit these villagers to check up on them and it makes me feel happy that I’m helping my community even in a small, simple way.
I aspire to have more advance medical knowledge and I hope NGOs and donors help us widen our medical knowledge by conducting more workshops and trainings to be able to serve a big number of citizens in our community and other villages.
Climbing mountains of hope
Sana’a, Yemen, April 2019 – When the children see her thin silhouette in a white coat approaching their village, they run to meet her and accompany her the rest of the way. Her name means good news in Arabic and that’s exactly what Bashair is bringing in this mountainous area of Sana’a governorate in Yemen, where she works as a community health worker.
In her remote village of Bani Zayet in Manakhah district of Sana’a, she witnesses cases of malnutrition and severe infections due to preventable diseases, such as measles, rubella, cholera or diphtheria on a daily basis, particularly among young children. Without access to health services, these cases can turn fatal and many people died on their way to the health centre, which is three hours’ walk away from the village.
One year ago, the lives of the inhabitants of Bani Zayed village improved significantly when Bashair got nominated to join the community health worker network. After receiving an intense training of three weeks on community health, child nutrition, integrated management of childhood illness and maternal care, she started providing health and nutrition services in her village, as well as in neighboring areas.
I started working immediately after the training. On my first day, the sun was really high, but I insisted on visiting all the villages in one day to make people know that I am here to help them.
This is not an easy job but Bashair is determined to bring hope and support to her community members. Bashair starts her day early by receiving patients in her house and then leaves for one of the four villages she works in. She walks for hours carrying medicines and medical supplies to reach nearby villages.
There are currently more than 1,800 community health workers in Yemen, that have been trained by the local health authorities with the support of UNICEF and the European Union. The community health workers offer services which include immunization, screening and referral for childhood illnesses and malnutrition. And their contribution in better health outcomes for children and empowerment of women are eye seeing. So far, 639,000 under five children received health services, including malnutrition screening and treatment and more than 353,000 pregnant and lactating women were reached with maternal health and newborn care services, thanks to the joint UNICEF-EU project.