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At a glance: Yemen

“They call me teacher”: Promoting better health in the midst of Yemen’s crisis

WATCH: By the numbers: Yemen conflict devastates children


By Ansar Rasheed

As the humanitarian situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate, a volunteer provides vital health information and services to communities in desperate need of help.

AL HUSHA, Yemen, 17 August 2015 – Abdulghani Saeed has been busy recently. For the past several months, he has dedicated every spare moment to working with families desperate for health care.

Yemen’s health system, already fragile before fighting escalated in March, has been further distressed by conflict, and gaining access to people in need of assistance is a serious challenge. It is a catastrophic situation, with an estimated 21 million people – 80 percent of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance.

Putting his career as a district head of health education on hold, Abdulghani has taken up the crucial role of community volunteer. Supported by UNICEF and its partners, he leads a team of six volunteers delivering essential services and health information in his home district of Al Husha, in southern Yemen, where heavy clashes have led to a large influx of people.

Life-saving messages

A five-day training in Communication for Development (C4D) helped give Abdulghani the tools and information to engage with communities and enable people who have been displaced to protect their families’ health. He joins more than 1,400 community volunteers trained in disease prevention and management, essential nutrition, routine immunization and hygiene promotion. Volunteers also provide guidance on the use of chlorine for water purification and how to avoid injury and death by unexploded ordnance (UXO) – sadly essential knowledge in these times.

Abdulghani also helps link the villages he covers to services provided by mobile health units. "With my team, we cover 15 villages with our messages, including the use of posters and leaflets. We knock on doors and we talk with people,” he says. “Our team doesn’t just repeat messages – we help teach people to help themselves. By adopting good practices, they’ll save their children and hopefully their own lives as well.”

UNICEF has supported production of 35,000 information leaflets, covering 14 key behaviours. Distributed by the Ministry of Health and partners, as well as six radio stations, these messages are reaching close to 3 million people across Yemen.

Abdulghani is aware that the contributions of the community volunteers are essential to providing humanitarian assistance in these desperate times.

“My family is proud of me, and I have gained respect, especially from elderly people and women,” he says. “Now in my village they call me ‘Ustaz’ [teacher] Abdulghani.”



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