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Dr. Nabila, a health worker determined to save lives of children in Yemen

UNICEF Yemen/2018
© UNICEF Yemen/2018
Dr. Nabila, the Director of Al-Jalila Medical Center in Al-Dhale’e governorate.

Story by Ali Qasem Ali, Communication Officer, UNICEF Aden Field Office

Al Dhale’e, Yemen, 15 October 2018 – As the fourth year of conflict in Yemen is around the corner, the humanitarian situation in the country continues to deteriorate by the day. The healthcare system has collapsed. More than half of the health facilities have stopped working, and the health workers haven’t been paid for years. In addition, an increasing trend in the number of suspected cholera cases in the past few weeks, renders the possibility of a third wave of the epidemic more likely, along with the spread of food insecurity. Currently, almost 400,000 under 5 children are suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).

In this extremely challenging context, health workers in Yemen are bearing the responsibility of providing health services to the most vulnerable people. Al Dhale’e governorate, South of Yemen, is one of the most affected governorates by the conflict.

And still, committed and determined health workers continue to struggle every day to give a chance to every child to get the proper health care to survive. Dr. Nabila Ali Saleh, the Director of Al-Jalila Medical Center in Al-Dhale’e governorate, is one of them. She explains how she chose to pursue a medical career: "few decades ago, it was a shame for women to go to school in our society, but I challenged these beliefs and decided to continue my education and became a doctor." After finishing her education, Nabila came back to work in Al Wa'rah province of Al-Dhale’e governorate. She had to walk for two hours every day to reach the health center where she was practicing, and she did the same to go back home in the evening. “It was difficult but necessary to acquire sufficient experience,” she adds.

Nabila was aware that people in her village needed a health facility. Few years later along with the help of the community, she established a health center to provide services to the villagers. As the war intensified in 2015, Nabila witnessed the worsening of the health situation, and she strived to save people’s lives in the area and neighboring districts. "We have been heavily affected by the war, and the number of patients who suffer from chronic diseases, malnutrition and dehydration has significantly increased since 2015," says Nabila.

UNICEF Yemen/2018
© UNICEF Yemen/2018
Dr. Nabila placing a Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) tape on the arm of a child to measure the malnutrition rate.

"During the war, UNICEF in partnership with the World Bank- Emergency Health and Nutrition Project, supported us with medical supplies and medicines. This support helped the medical staff to provide treatment to malnourished children and to treat pregnant and lactating women suffering from anemia." Nabila adds: "With this contribution, we can alleviate the suffering of people in the area. They no longer need to go far to seek treatment. This has saved their time and efforts.”

Al-Jalila center welcomes the patients from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm and receives about 20 cases per day. It offers a large range of free-of-charge services, including medical tests, prenatal care, child care, family planning and treatment of chronic diseases. The medical staff work for additional hours in case of emergencies. Dr. Nabila plays a crucial role in her community. "People call me ‘the Mother of Jalila’ because I have devoted my time to the villagers. I never go on vacation, and I receive pregnant women into my house so they can give birth in a safe environment," she says.

"The center still lacks equipment and medical supplies, such as an ambulance to quickly transport the patients that need urgent assistance or proper hospital beds. We also have to face the scarcity of water and electricity," stresses Nabila. "It’s heartbreaking when I don't have proper medication to be given to my patients, but I feel thrilled when I see a patient leaving the center in a good health," adds Nabila, with a note of sadness in her voice. "We will fight diseases and will always stand by the side of children to grow up healthy," Nabila concludes.

An estimated 16.37 million people in Yemen are in need of basic health care. Nearly 2.2 million children are acutely malnourished and need immediate care. This includes at least 400,000 children suffering from SAM at risk of death if they do not receive urgent assistance.

The Emergency Health & Nutrition Project continues its support to grant healthy lives to children and women in Al Dhale’e and all governorates in Yemen.



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