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Hana’a, a Community Health Volunteer: “I take care of children and serve my community as a humanitarian messenger"

Hana’a during the community health volunteer training conducted last month in Sana’a.

Sana’a, Yemen, 3 December 2018 – One out of three children in Yemen, approximately 1.8 million, and one out of five pregnant and lactating mothers are at risk of acute malnutrition. In addition, nearly 400,000 children are suffering from Severe Acute malnutrition (SAM). A child with SAM is 12 times more at risk of death than a healthy child. This situation is worsening with the current economic crisis exacerbated by the conflict across the country, which caused fluctuation in the currency, disruption of markets and escalation of prices of basic goods and diminished purchasing power of the population.

In some efforts to provide the most vulnerable people in Yemen with access to basic health services, UNICEF, together with the local authorities and partners, is supporting networks of community health volunteers. These women coming from rural areas are receiving a comprehensive training on malnutrition prevention and response and community health before going back to their villages where they play a vital role in linking their communities with health services in the area.

Hana’a and Ishraq have recently completed their community health volunteer training in Manakha district of Sana’a governorate and these are their stories.

Hana’a (right), during the community health volunteer training conducted last month in Sana’a.

Hana’a is a committed health volunteer and she always go beyond her work to raise awareness on two fundamental issues that matter to her: clean environment and nutritive food for all. "I’m trying hard to convey what I have learned to the people in my community, especially to pregnant mothers. I am sensitizing them on the importance of breastfeeding and nutritional needs of young children, from six months to five years of age."

There are many challenges that Hana’s needs to tackle every day when meeting with her community members and volunteering at the Medical Centre of Sana’a. Hana’a noticed that in the area where she lives, people are unable to provide proper living conditions to their children, including access to clean water, and they usually fetch water from unclean sources, such as stagnant pounds. Another obstacle is the reluctance of people to use the medicines she provides them with and to change their health behaviors. “The villagers constantly ask for food or water instead of medicines. I keep telling them that these things are out of my control. My role is limited to advise them on how to keep their children healthy, although I wish I could help them better,” the young woman says with sadness in her eyes. “One day, I went to visit a family to talk with the mother about the risks associated with the use of infant formula. I was astonished to see the woman feeding her child with a mix of wheat and water.

A community health volunteer learning how to fill in a child growth chart during the training.

But Hana’a is always looking for innovative solutions to improve the standards of living of her community. The 30-year-old woman began to collect donations among the villagers to buy a water tank and provide clean water free of charge to the people. “I created a WhatsApp group and told all the people around me about the dire situation in my area. I collected 132,000 YER (a bit more than 500 USD), enough money to buy a tank which provides clean water to families in the area on a weekly basis,” says Hana’a proudly. To alleviate the suffering of some of the poorest families, Hana’a also called for donations to cover their basic needs and buy some basic food supplies such as wheat, cooking oil, dates, etc.

This is thanks to UNICEF-supported training that Hana’a acquired the necessary skills to take care of the children and their mothers in her neighborhood. “I was trained on community health and now I am completing another training on child growth and infant health care. I have learned many new things about newborns and their nutritional needs and I will use what I have learnt to help people in my community,” Hana’a adds. “This role makes me very happy. I used to stay alone at home after graduation but now I take care of the children and serve my community as a humanitarian messenger," Hana’a concludes with a big smile on her face.

Ishraq and Hana’a practicing the MUAC (mid-upper arm circumference measuring tapes) measurements to detect potential cases of malnutrition.

Community health volunteers are trained by the local health authorities with the support of UNICEF, and play a key role in raising awareness among communities about cholera and malnutrition prevention and response. This activity has been implemented thanks to the contribution of the Kuwait Fund for Arabic Development (The Kuwait Fund). Kuwait has been supporting UNICEF in Yemen for the last three years in the sectors of health and nutrition to save children lives across the country and give them a chance to reach their full potential in health and well-being. 



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