Nurses and female health workers play a major role in providing
life-saving services to Palestinian mothers and children
Asma Abu Hassan served as a Head Nurse at the Union Near East Council of Churches Clinic (NECC) in Al Shajaya neighborhood in the Gaza Strip for many years. She had a lifelong ambition to enter the medical field but faced enormous obstacles as medicine studies weren’t offered by the universities in the Gaza Strip. Asma's only option was to enroll in the American School of Nursing. She remembers these times as "the best moments of my life."
Asma's dedication and hard work in the school earned her a recommendation to the NECC when she graduated. Asma explains, "I grew more attached to the place as if it were my second home."
While in the clinic, Asma supported countless women, children, and men in need. She was instrumental in the implementation of UNICEF postnatal home visiting services, management of malnutrition, and Early Childhood Development programmes.
Since 2014, UNICEF has been collaborating with NECC in this area. Throughout her time with NECC, Asma has demonstrated dedication in her work. After working for nearly 35 years in the clinic, Asma has gained enormous experience and has become an expert in the field. During this time, she was trained on early childhood development, contributed to screening postpartum depression, and played a key role in the home visits programme.
Asma and other health professionals in the clinic used the training they received to better serve the community's most vulnerable members, including mothers and children. Asma answered many questions from mothers and addressed many concerns regarding newborns, including assisting them in overcoming other difficulties they were experiencing. Asma recalls, "We visited a mother who had just given birth, and she was bleeding, not knowing that this was abnormal. We performed a blood pressure test and noted her pressure was very low. We brought her immediately to the hospital and transfused blood, saving her life."
Primary care for patients is the clinic's aim, and they put all their efforts into serving one underserved neighborhood. "We do not engage with patients as ordinary people who come for treatment, we deal with them as members of our family and friends, that is why our clinic is called the family clinic. She continues, "It was part of my job to conduct home visits to mothers who had recently given birth; during my visits, I did everything mothers needed, including light housework and showing proper childcare techniques. This is because we are one family and our work is a result of love and caring for others, so I became attached to helping people, and I did not see any other place that suited me”.
Asma is happy about the summer activities she was able to organize with UNICEF support targeting children and teaching them about the importance of personal hygiene and nutrition while enjoying sports and recreational activities. "When I saw them playing cheerfully, and when they were delighted to come and participate in the activities, I felt great joy," she reflects.
Despite the challenges, Asma explains, "we were able to provide all kinds of health care to mothers and children, and we face less and less obstacles. We even started to offer more support to women and children."
Asma then returns to her duties, saying, "I dream of never retiring and of being there for every child and mother."
In the State of Palestine, the mortality figures for under-fives have fallen significantly over the last five years, from 22 deaths per 1,000 to 14 deaths. Despite this considerable progress, improving child survival remains a matter of urgent concern. UNICEF has been working with partners to strengthen the health system in the State of Palestine to further reduce maternal, newborn, and child mortality rates through an improved, sustainable, and quality life-saving health services for disadvantaged mothers and children.
As part of its support, UNICEF provides mothers and other family members with access to health education on topics such as hygiene, nutrition, and responsive parenting which are critical for the child's healthy development and growth. In 2022, 5,000 high risk mothers aged (15-17 years and older) were targeted through post-natal home visiting.