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Ashwaq: “I save the lives of mothers and children and this is my main motivation”

Ashwaq attending the community-based maternal and newborn care training organized in early December at Ma’abar hospital, in Dhamar governorate

Dhamar, Yemen, 30 December 2018 – Yemen is one of the worst places on earth to be a child. Nearly 16.4 million people, half being children, do not have access to basic health assistance.

Women and children living in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to displacements, spread of epidemic diseases, food insecurity and too often the primary victims of the lack of health infrastructure and services.

In this context, UNICEF partnered with the National Yemeni Midwifery Association, to strengthen its health response by offering quality reproductive health services to women and their newborns at the community level.

Last month, the Association held a training on maternal and newborn care for community midwives with the support of UNICEF and the local health authorities. Theory and practice were combined and the 21-day course equipped the midwives with skills on birth attendance and essential newborn care, including the capacity for timely referral of complicated cases to health facilities.

The instructor teaching birth attendance skills to trainee midwives.

Ashwaq Mohammed Moqbel Al-Kawkbani was one of the training’s participants. "I am coming from Al-Sharq district in Dhamar governorate and I am a community midwife. I help women to give birth either at my home or at the nearest health facilities and I provide them with reproductive health services,” Ashwaq says while introducing herself.

“This course is very important because it provides us with new skills and corrects some of our behaviors. We are taught how to become more self-dependent when we practice the theoretical part at the teaching hospital,” welcomes the enthusiastic midwife.

A trainee midwife examining a premature newborn at Ma’bar teaching hospital.

Ashwaq lives in a remote village where access to health services and education remains very limited. "I work hard and face difficulties when trying to convince the inhabitants to adopt new health habits, but I see the impact of my actions every day. I save the lives of mothers and children and this is my main motivation to keep doing this job," proudly tells Ashwaq.

The community midwife witnessed many sad experiences over the years and some with more joyful outcomes.

“A woman came to me during her third pregnancy. She had a very difficult second birth and had to undergo an emergency cesarean, which was not done properly. I warned her over the risks and recommended her to have a C-section for her third child too, but she didn’t want to listen to me. She went to another midwife and gave birth but unfortunately, the baby died. For her fourth pregnancy, she came back to me. I followed her pregnancy very closely and provided her with pre-natal care. When she was about to give birth, the family didn’t have enough money to pay for the cesarean. All the villagers contributed and the operation was done. She gave birth to a girl and I feel that somehow, this daughter is mine,” she recalls.

There is deep sorrow in Ashwaq’s eyes when telling this story: “I lost my first child during birth. I gave birth at home because my husband didn’t want me to go to the hospital. Today I have just one child, a beautiful daughter,” Ashwaq reveals.

A trainee midwife examining a mother who recently gave birth at Ma’bar teaching hospital.

Women in her village quit studying after elementary school because the secondary school is very far away, so they usually stay at home to take care of the children. “I wish girls could access education. I also wish these training courses to continue because I am sure that the more I learn, the better I will serve my community,” concluded Ashwaq.

More than 150 midwives have been trained across the country on community-based maternal and newborn care as a result of the contributions from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre) and the United Arab Emirates.

UNICEF continues to support the scale-up of essential health care services for children and women through service delivery at health facilities, regular community outreach from health facilities to remote communities and integrated outreach and mobile teams.

From January to November 2018, UNICEF health interventions, supported by its partners, enabled access to primary health care for almost 1.2 million children under the age of 5 and more than 600,000 pregnant and lactating women.



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