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Rapid Response Teams reach Yemen’s most remote areas to help eliminate cholera

Story by Mohammed Al-Ghorbani and Sabrin Al-Aghbari

31 January 2019, Al Dhale'e, Yemen – The war in Yemen has resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. As the conflict reaches almost four years, all public sector and services were disrupted, especially in health services. This made the Yemeni population more vulnerable due to ongoing fighting and the widespread of deadly diseases, such as cholera.

To avert this scenario, UNICEF has partnered with the World Bank to provide a fast response through the Rapid Response Teams that are deployed across the country to control the cholera outbreak. Each team is formed by one man and one woman, and they reach areas in different governorates and districts.

Amira Abdullah has been a member of these teams in Al-Dhale’e governorate for the past six months along with her colleague Ahmed Abdelmu’ti. Together, they visit cholera-infected areas and villages despite the several obstacles to do their jobs. Sometimes they walk for long hours on unpaved roads to reach communities and educate the local population about the risk of contracting the disease.

Every day, they make house-to-house visits to distribute hygiene kits and to explain to the people how to use these items and to protect them and their loved ones from cholera. "The team members walk on foot in rough roads, carrying their equipment on their shoulders,” says Amira.

"It sometimes takes five hours to find the group we are targeting. We stop and talk to other families until we find the ones we are looking for,” explains Ahmed.


Amira, one of the Rapid Response Team members, checking on a previously infected cholera case.

"I explain to residents how to use the items we provide such as the soap bars, soap powder and chlorine tablets to chlorinate water,” says Amira.

Being a woman does not obstruct her from helping other residents in all areas, on the other hand, it encourages them to pay attention to hygiene practices and isolate livestock from their homes.

"We talk to people and advise them on how to maintain hygiene and keep them away from sources of infection. We raise their awareness about diseases and how to avoid infection through the appropriate disposal of solid waste and human excreta in general,” details Amira.

Ahmed is also motivated to work with the team. He pays a lot of attention to the cleanliness of his house and takes necessary precautions to ensure that nobody in his family gets infected with epidemics, but unfortunately his mother was infected with cholera.

"I always clean my house and chlorinate the water tank; however, my mother went to visit my sister who lives in the valley and was infected with cholera because she ate unclean vegetables. When she returned home, she had symptoms of cholera and I took her directly to the health center where she received treatment and recovered after a short period,” he recalls.


The Rapid Response Team members filling the disinfectant liquid in bottles.

Ahmed and Amira extend their gratitude to UNICEF and its partners for their efforts to eliminate cholera in Yemen. They hope that these efforts will continue until all the country is free of the disease. They are happy that people began to understand about cholera and other epidemics and are paying more attention to hygiene and health practices.

“People started to dig holes for drainage and to take care of their hygiene. They also began to dispose their waste and isolate the livestock from their houses. Women are now using detergents and the area is better," Amira acknowledges with satisfaction.


The Rapid Response Team members on their way to visit houses on the opposite hill.

"We have contained the epidemic to a great extent, and we will continue to fight it no matter what the challenges are. We want the community to be aware of these diseases and we want everyone to be protected from the risks,” Ahmed concludes.

UNICEF, in partnership with the World Bank, has trained more than 1,700 members of the Rapid Response Teams since February 2017. These teams belong to the Emergency Unit of the General Authority of Rural Waters Supply Project established to respond to cholera outbreaks in various districts throughout Yemen.

 

 
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