Meet #RealLifeHeroes

On World Humanitarian Day, 19 August, we pay a special tribute to #RealLifeHeroes who are doing extraordinary things to help people whose lives have been upended by crises

By Lalaina Fatratra Andriamasinoro
Real Life Heroes
Juan Haro
18 August 2020

Around the world, many people have grown up with local stories of fictional heroes, from folktales to fantasy epics. Humanitarians didn’t appear in those stories, but this year we bring these unsung heroic stories to life.

On World Humanitarian Day, 19 August, we pay a special tribute to #RealLifeHeroes – humanitarians and front-line workers who are doing extraordinary things to help people whose lives have been upended by crises, including COVID-19.

The dedication, perseverance and self-sacrifice of these real-life heroes represent the best of humanity as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis and the massive increase in humanitarian needs it has triggered.

What makes a hero… a hero?

First responders are members of the community themselves. They bring food, shelter, health care, protection and hope to others amid conflict, displacement, disaster and disease.

To pay tribute to the efforts of those unsung heroes, UNICEF and its partners present the personal stories of some of the #RealLifeHeroes who are stepping up to meet the challenges.

World Humanitarian Day
UNOCHA

Fatima Hassane, Health Worker, Agadez

Imagine for a moment that you are about to give birth. You are at home, accompanied only by a few members of your family.

You are in pain, but you have no access to a doctor, nurse or midwife. You know there is a real risk that both you and the baby you have been waiting to meet may not survive the birth.

Even if you and the baby survive, you know that the coming days and weeks will be filled with danger.

This scenario illustrates the harsh reality faced by thousands of mothers, babies and health workers in Niger. It is a reality that we can and must change to keep Every Child Alive.

Join us in celebrating #RealLifeHeroes like Fatima Hassane, who is helping mothers and newborns to survive with quality care in Niger.

UNICEF

Life in Niger is not easy for mothers and babies. That is why I must keep working. That is why I won’t give up. One day, people in the village will look back and remember me.

Fatima Hassane

Although the country has made progress in reducing rate of under-five child mortality, newborn deaths have declined at a slower pace.

A child’s birth and the 28 days that follow are the most dangerous period of her life. In Niger, more than 25 percent of all under-five children who died are newborns. Most of all newborn deaths are caused by preventable and treatable diseases.

No parents should experience the heartbreak of watching their child suffer or die. We can and must do better.

Yaye Moudi Alzouma, Community Leader, Niamey

With UNICEF support, traditional leaders, neighborhood leaders and town criers are joining forces to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus in Niger.

Since the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, we have been working to raise awareness on prevention measures against Covid-19. We are the ones that explain how to act. People are still trying to understand the situation.

Yaye Moudi Alzouma
Islamane Abdou

UNICEF closely works with the Government and its partners to step up the response and prevent further proliferation of the COVID-19 virus in the country, already facing the consequences of multiple crisis including malnutrition, conflicts and natural disasters.

In countries facing humanitarian crises like Niger, the COVID-19 outbreak is creating significant additional pressure on an already overburdened health and social service delivery systems and exacerbating vulnerabilities in affected populations.

Bagale Kamouli, Community Health Worker, Diffa

To reduce the number of child deaths, Niger implements an integrated community care system for childhood diseases. Community volunteers have been trained to treat cases of malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections tract in the children’s home.

Islamane Abdou

A community volunteer at a site for displaced persons is crucial as populations on the move frequently lack safe drinking water as well as food. They are thus more prone to diseases. I log an average of 30 cases per week

Bagale Kamouli

Today, children in Niger have a greater chance of reaching their fifth birthday than ever before. Child deaths have declined by a half over the past decades, a significant victory for children and women. Still: most of these deaths are preventable with the right childcare practices and access to timely medical attention. In Niger, progress is slowed because less than half of all children and mothers live close to a health facility.

Salamatou Mahamane, Community Worker, Agadez

How are life-saving vaccines delivered to children in remote communities? Health workers in Niger are determined to reach every child – no matter how far.

Islamane Abdou

We travel by motorbike to remote village. As some places are difficult to access – even on motorbikes, we walk for hours to ensure not a single child is missed

Salamatou Mahamane

Thanks to vaccines, fewer people died from measles and polio is on the verge of being eradicated worldwide. Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective health tools ever invented – every USD$1 spent on childhood immunization returns up to USD$44 in benefits. In Niger, UNICEF works with the government to help ensure every child receives vaccines to protect against preventable illnesses.

Habibou Oumani, Traditional Leader, Tahoua

Nearly 71% of Niger’s population still practice open defecation. That means going into fields, open bodies of water or other open spaces instead of using a toilet.

Open defecation has devastating consequences for public health. Faecal contamination of the environment and poor hygiene practices remain a leading cause of child mortality, morbidity, undernutrition and stunting, and can potentially have negative effects on cognitive development.

Poor sanitation can also be a barrier to education and economic opportunity, with women and girls often particularly vulnerable to the consequences of poor sanitation services.

Ending open defecation is everyone’s business.

Why don’t we take action? Because it is for us, it is for our own health, it is for our children’s health. That’s why I was encouraged to say: It’s over! From now on our children won’t die of the lack of sanitation

Habibou Oumani
Araia Tamayo

Why do we need more heroes?

Nearly 3 million people, more than half children in Niger are in need of humanitarian assistance, amid the risks posed by insecurity, malnutrition, recurrent disease epidemics and outbreaks, cyclical floods, droughts and displacement. UNICEF calls today for increased attention to the plight of children and their families.

Niger continues to face simultaneous emergencies that are stretching the capacities of humanitarian partners to respond adequately. The situation is exacerbated by instability in the region, including in neighboring countries, resulting in an influx of thousands of refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons and migrants, all needing access to basic social services and protection for survival.

In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly designated 19 August as World Humanitarian Day to raise awareness about humanitarian assistance worldwide and to pay tribute to the people who risk their lives to provide it. World Humanitarian Day was commemorated for the first time on 19 August 2009.