A glimpse of hope in the heart of fire

UNICEF is working through the CHW Project to maintain the country's health system in order to ensure better health care for every child

UNICEF Yemen
Ashwaq Mahmoud is screening a child for malnutrition
UNICEF/2021/Yemen/Essa Alrajehi
11 April 2021

Messages about the military conflict come every day. We discuss them in the news and social media, suggest solutions, and make projections. However, do we really know what is going on?

Though most people are aware of the war that has been exhausting Yemen for several years, hardly anyone has heard of Hajjah, a small town at the very heart of the conflict. This area remains off-limits even for the bravest war correspondents, but bits and pieces of news have come out of this small town.

The guardian angel from Al-Jarf village

Ashwaq Mahmoud AbdoQabul is a brave 23-year-old woman who lives in Al-Jarf, a small village of Hajjah Governorate, with 10 family members. She was among the community health workers (CHW) who received financial incentives from UNICEF with funding from the European Union. Instead of spending the incentive money for her personal use, she decided to use it for a good cause.

Ashwaq Mahmoud is about to screen a child for malnutrition
UNICEF/2021/Yemen/Essa Alrajehi
Ashwaq Mahmoud is about to screen a child for malnutrition

Her idea was to build a Primary Health Care (PHC) station in the village. People were skeptical.

In Al-Jarf and many other villages in the country, people have not seen qualified medical help for years. Most of them got used to the course of events, injuries, diseases, and a heartbreaking rate of child mortality.

Ashwaq handled the incentive funds wisely and built a medical center in the village. As modest as this room might look, it is the only healthcare facility for many miles around and a chance for local people to get qualified primary medical help and assistance.

“The hospital is too far for people to go there considering their condition. I hope that UNICEF will help us and give adequate treatment for children and mothers”, she says.

Starting low, aiming high

Ashwaq remembers the skepticism and even aggressiveness she saw from the locals when she started her project. When walking door to door, trying to raise people’s awareness about healthcare and immunization, her message would be met with disbelief and some asked her to leave.

Today, they thank her for the lives of children that she saves every day, for the help she provides to pregnant women and young mothers, and their chance to get medical help in the village in case of injury or disease.

Indeed, most children in the village are sick because of poor nutrition or because they have diseases that could have been prevented had they received medical attention on time. Ashwaq remembers an 8-month girl who was on the brink of death due to severe malnourishment. The young nurse persuaded the mother that the girl needed special attention, explained proper nutrition practices and care for the baby. Today, the girl is alive and healthy, and her mother recently came to thank Ashwaq for her perseverance and dedication.

Ashwaq Mahmoud is talking to one of the mothers about her children
UNICEF/2021/Yemen/Essa Alrajehi
Ashwaq Mahmoud is talking to one of the mothers about her children

When the sheikh of the village came to Ashwaq’s house and asked if she was willing to go through medical training for the sake of the local children, the young woman agreed.

Today, she is grateful for all the support she’s received in her endeavor.

Outdoor view of Ashwaq’s small clinic.
UNICEF/2021/Yemen/Essa Alrajehi
Outdoor view of Ashwaq’s small clinic.

This small medical point is an example of what can be accomplished with incentives, coupled with hard work and dedication.