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Muqbil: A Community Volunteer standing up for displaced children in Yemen

Muqbil during a briefing with his team in Bin Waleed collective centre in Aden Governorate.

Story and photography by Ansar Rasheed, Communication for Development Officer, UNICEF Field Office in Aden

Aden, Yemen, 7 March 2019 - The children of the centre refer to him as Ustaz, which means teacher in Arabic. You can see him from a distance. Standing in the middle of his team, Muqbil Saif always starts his day by briefing his colleagues on the daily schedule. At only 24 years old, the enthusiastic community volunteer is managing a team of 15 volunteers responsible for the Communication for Development (C4D) activities organized for the displaced communities at Bin Waleed collective centre in Aden Governorate.

The C4D community volunteers play a crucial role in the Bin Waleed centre. They work closely with the communities to educate them on lifesaving health, hygiene and sanitation practices, such as handwashing, importance of prenatal care and immunization for young children, so they can better protect themselves against diseases in a challenging environment. They also serve as a link between the services providers to the communities, such as the health workers of the mobile clinic, the school staff, the cash transfer team and the social and child protection workers.

Muqbi Saif is coming from a displaced family himself. “I left Hudaydah with my family when the conflict escalated. We had to flee in the middle of the night leaving behind all our belongings. We had nowhere to stay, so we went to a school, which turned into a centre for displaced people, where other families 400 were seeking refuge,” Muqbil recalls. “I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Arabic literature. I was dreaming to become a teacher but ended up being a displaced person.”

“We all love him. We call him Ustaz Muqbil because he teaches us how to stay healthy,” Rawia, 11 years old, lives with her family in Bin Waleed centre.

Muqbil’s life changed when he was selected to join the community volunteer team supported by UNICEF and its local partners. “When I joined the volunteers team, I was very happy. I feel that, with my team, I can contribute to save more lives by promoting lifesaving practices. Engaging daily with the children and their families in the centre makes me proud,” Muqbil adds.

“He is always smiling. He seats with us in our tents and tells us about all the things we can do to keep ourselves and our children healthy and safe from any harm. He is a hardworking person, committed and sincere. And more importantly, he never gives up on us,” testifies Hamzah, a mother staying with her children at the centre. “He makes me feel that despite being displaced, I can always count on him and still have the right to get information.”

Muqbil conducting an awareness session on infants and prenatal care practices for mothers.

Muqbil has many success stories to tell. “I feel that my team and I have a great responsibility towards these people. We completed a C4D training and get the daily support we need to fulfill our role. Recently, we managed to convince the parents to take part in UNICEF-supported vaccination campaigns to ensure that their children are protected against measles, rubella and cholera. We achieved a 100 percent coverage because they listened to us and they trust in what we are doing. We also contributed to send over 500 children back to school, as we registered their names and liaise with our education team to reintegrate them into schools,” he says.

“I feel happy when I see that the displaced families have adopted the practices we taught them, and I believe that this can make a small difference in their lives,” Muqbil says.

“Every night before I go to sleep, despite all the frustration, the harsh life conditions, missing home and what I left behind, I keep hope in my heart. I hope the conflict will stop soon. I dream to go back to the life I always wanted and to work as a teacher in my village,” Muqbil concludes.

With the support of its partners, UNICEF is taking part in the integrated response for displaced people in Aden. At Bin Waleed collective centre, UNICEF trained 15 volunteers, including 6 women, on community engagement and behavior change methodologies and tools.

During the training, the community volunteers are trained on how to engage with displaced communities and to disseminated lifesaving messages through awareness group sessions and community gatherings, household visits, puppet theater, interactive drama and mother to mother clubs, among others.

Muqbil’s team supports these activities by promoting lifesaving essential practices across sectors, including health and nutrition, education, water, hygiene and cholera prevention. The C4D community volunteers also take part in bi-weekly cleaning campaigns organized at the centre, with the active participation of the displaced communities.



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