Community Health and Nutrition Volunteers (CHNVs) Project in Al Dhale'a
Inspirational transformation to hope…Bringing new life for the poorest children
Residents of Al Dhale'a governorate are gripped by multiple humanitarian sufferings, including malnutrition, diseases and lack of health care, as a result of the ongoing war in the country. "Living here is really a hardship. We are running out of food amid widespread hunger and disease. Most children and mothers suffer from malnutrition, as we rely on relief aid provided by some organizations; the only assistance that helps us cope with the situation", says Nojud Sa'ad, a 25 year-old mother of three children. In the midst of these conditions came the Community Healthy Nutrition Volunteers Project implemented by UNICEF with funding from the government of Japan to improve the health status in the area.
For her part, Raghda Ahmed Yahya, a community volunteer working in the camp located in the Central Security in Qataba district, states that families at camps face great challenges, especially access to healthy food and personal hygiene items, pointing out that some are not aware at all about hygiene issues. "Some parents do not take bring their children to the health center seriously on the pretext that the nutrition packages they receive are not sufficient, yet seem to be fully incognizant of the threat to the health and lives of their children". In her capacity as a community volunteer, Raghda manages to educate parents on the importance of their children's health and encourages them to take children to the health centre.
Volunteers working in the field together with households in need approach pregnant & lactating women and provide them with necessary information about basic health and nutrition issues, the importance of personal hygiene and breastfeeding, while assessing the condition of children through examination and MUAC measurements. If cases with acute malnutrition are found, they are referred to the health center to get the appropriate health care services. “When my child was malnourished, the volunteer visited me and educated me on many things pertaining to personal hygiene for myself and my kids, breastfeeding and its importance, as well as how to take care of my children’s health and nutrition. After that she checked my baby, took his MUAC measurements, she referred my baby to the treatment center at the hospital", says Nojud.
The project has been successful in actively engaging the local community and health volunteers, promoting health awareness and education, as an example of impactful humanitarian interventions by UNICEF. “The volunteers taught us what is right and what is wrong. They check our children and take their MUAC measurements”, says Salama Juma'ee Mohamed, a 26-year-old mother of three and pregnant with the fourth, adding I"If children are in bad condition, they are quickly referred to the health center for further checkups and the necessary treatment. They are also given milk and ready-to-use food (RUTF) kits. With further health care at the center, children leave the hospital healthy and fully recovered.”
Welcoming mothers whose children need to be checked, their weight taken, and their growth monitored, including the necessary support at Al Sallam Hospital, Dr. Maha Mohammad Ali Nasser - Head of the Clinical Nutrition Department, says: "Most of children admitted to the center are under the age of five. First, we examine them and then provide the appropriate treatment they need, including follow-up until they fully recover".
This project shows how important volunteering work is in the context of health care and nutrition to children in need. Sharing health knowledge and skills to local communities can have a significant impact on improving the health of children and their families. It represents a glimpse of hope in the face of the difficulties afflicting the residents of Dhale'a governorate.
Highlighting the importance role she assumes, volunteer Raghda Ahmed says: “Through awareness and education, we are changing the behavior of the community, and as volunteers; we further promote the support provided by UNICEF and its partners to the health center, including medicines and nutrition for children, pregnant and lactating mothers. We all share the same goal, i.e., serving the people and communities.”
Similarly, Dr. Maha praised the work of volunteers by saying: "Working in the field and conducting home visits, the volunteers' work proved to be of paramount importance in facilitating our job, including follow up of cases".
According to the mothers, the project helped them improve the health of their children and provided them with health care services they need. In this context, Salamah Juma'ee one of the IDPs living at the camp, was quoted as saying: "We are really satisfied with the services rendered by the volunteers. This project is crucial, because without these services, our children would have died of malnutrition and starvation. It is also vital for children in the area to survive".