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Women Volunteers are keeping their communities healthy and cholera-free in Yemen

Story by Marie Bracquemont and Sabrin Al-aghbari
Photography by UNICEF partners

A Community Health Worker during a household visit holding a newborn baby in her arms.

Sana’a, Yemen, 25 September 2018 – Mureha, Salehah and Amena are few of the Community Health Workers (CHVs) that have been recently trained to provide basic health and nutrition services to children in communities affected by the cholera outbreak across Yemen.

This activity implemented by UNICEF, with the support of the national health authorities, aims at building the capacity of health workers and volunteers posted in Diarrhea Treatment Centers (DTCs) and Oral Rehydration Centers (ORCs) in governorates, affected by the cholera outbreak, so that they can identify and refer cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and suspected cholera/Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) more effectively.

This week, 24 women, including Mureha, Salehah and Amena, completed the training in Sana’a and will now go back to their villages to continue providing their own communities with lifesaving health and nutrition services, raising awareness on cholera preventive measures and identifying cases of acute malnutrition among children suffering from suspected cholera.

“I am benefiting a lot from this course. I have learnt very useful information on nutrient supplements and treatment of epidemic diseases such as diphtheria and cholera. I feel more empowered to go back to my village and continue my work as a volunteer, especially with all the new measures I have learnt to detect and refer child malnutrition cases.” Amena says.

The three volunteers are all coming from Sanhan district of Sana’a governorate and have been active in their communities as health volunteers for the past five years, since May 2014. “This training is really important for us. We received a lot of new information and are given the opportunity to refresh our skills so we can correct our own previous mistakes. I really enjoyed to learn more about cholera preventive measures and I will surely apply this knowledge in my daily work.” explained Mureha at the end of the training session.

In total, 13 training courses were conducted for 302 CHVs coming from 7 districts in Sana’a governorate on key measures for prevention and management of cholera, including the referral of affected children to the management centers for cholera.

“I already can see the impact of my work on my community. I remember when I first visited a 6-month child who was suffering from SAM. I immediately referred him to the nearest treatment center. I kept visited him and his mother to follow his case until he became better and he is now a healthy baby.” Salehah testifies.

The brave Mureha, Salehah and Amena have many success stories to tell. “I can feel the impact of my role as a CHV on my community, especially when it comes to cholera prevention. I have trained many children in my village on handwashing practices and I keep raising awareness of the mothers on how to get clear water, by chlorination or boiling it, to make sure that there is safe drinking water in their households,” says Mureha.

The health volunteers can really make a difference when it comes to the health behavior of their community members. “There is a woman in my village who was completely opposed to breastfeeding. For her last child, I followed her pregnancy from the very beginning until the delivery of the child. I tried to make her feel confident enough to breastfeed her child, supervising her closely and giving her advice on how to feed her child in the most natural way. The mother kept breastfeeding during two years and she became a strong advocate of natural breastfeeding in the village, encouraging young mothers to do the same.” Amera recalls.

These activities have been implemented thanks to the generous support of the Big Heart Foundation, a humanitarian organization from United Arab Emirates (UAE), which contributes to UNICEF Yemen’s efforts to contain the cholera outbreak in affected communities and prevent the disease spread in “at risk” communities, improving the well-being of children in Yemen.



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