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Yemen midwife hero saving lives amidst conflict

Fatima: “One of my daughters aspires to become a community midwife in the future and this makes me very happy.”

Fatima, a Community Midwife, attending a UNICEF-supported training in Raymah governorate.

Raymah, Yemen, 20 January 2019 – More than 21 years of experience as a midwife in Kusma district of Raymah governorate didn’t prevent Fatima Mohammed Sagheer from learning new skills and developing her medical knowledge. Fatima truly believes that science can help her to provide better health services to her community members, especially in Raymah where the lack of infrastructure and health workers is dire.

Last month, Fatima took part in a UNICEF-support training for community midwives organized by the National Yemeni Midwifery Association, in coordination with the local health authorities in Raymah governorate, on reproductive health services to women and their newborns at the community level.

"The training is very comprehensive and provides midwives with all the necessary skills. We need such courses because we live in rural areas that lack emergency obstetric centers. I am the only midwife in my area," says Fatima.

The 21 days-training combined theory and practice to equip midwives with skills on birth attendance and essential maternal and newborn care, including the capacity for timely referral of complicated cases to health facilities.

At Ma’bar teaching hospital of Dhamar governorate, community midwives coming from various rural areas are being trained on birth attendance and essential newborn care.

The rough mountain roads may impede the work of many people but Fatima overcomes these challenges every day. “I feel helpless when I can’t serve my community. Each time I provide services to my people, I contribute to improve their lives and this makes me more determined to go on”.

It takes at least four hours to reach the nearest health centre in Kusma district, which makes it very difficult for pregnant women to receive support at critical times. Thanks to the UNICEF training courses, community midwives feel more empowered to save lives and minimize the risks of complications. "I will return to my village with the ability to detect critical childbirth cases early enough and refer them quickly to the nearest health centre in time,” Fatima adds.

In rural areas, midwives exert heroic efforts to take care of pregnant women and their newborns. A community midwife may travel for several days to take care of a mother and her baby in neighbouring villages, away from her own family“. I have three daughters and they know very well the value of my work. One of my daughters aspires to become a community midwife in the future and this makes me very happy”.

“There were no midwives in my area at that time. This motivated me to learn this profession and acquire new skills. I also traveled to other governorates to learn to serve my community better," Fatima says when recalling the reason why she decided to study midwifery. “A professional midwife must be polite and respectful when dealing with others. Certificates are not important if we are not able to make a change in the society", Fatima stresses.

Women and children living in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to displacements, spread of epidemic diseases, food insecurity and are the worst affected by the lack of health infrastructure and services.

With Yemen’s health system in tatters as a result of conflict, health workers such as Fatima are a lifeline. Fatima is determined to continue providing lifesaving services within her community. “I do not accept money for what I do, except to cover the costs of medicines. If we do not have mercy for other people, no one will have mercy for us," Fatima sighs heavily.

Despite all these challenges she encounters, Fatima has many inspiring stories to share. "Once, I visited a woman who was about to give birth. I was afraid because she had a tumor and suffered from high blood pressure. I examined her, measured her blood pressure and I also gave her antibiotics. She successfully delivered a healthy baby.”

"I want to keep saving people’s lives and to bring them some joy. I also wish to be a good housewife and to raise my daughters well. My humanitarian duty is greater than everything around me,” Fatima concludes proudly.

A trainee midwife examining a newborn during the practical part of the training at Ma’bar teaching hospital.

More than 150 midwives have been trained across the country on community-based maternal and newborn care with 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.

 Photographs copyright: UNICEF Yemen/2019/DotNotion



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