Knowledge is key to save lives and protect displaced communities from cholera

Since the beginning of the cholera outbreak in April 2017, more than 1.2 million of suspected cholera cases have been registered

Ansar Rasheed, Communication for Development Officer, UNICEF Aden Field Office
UNICEF Yemen/2018/C4D partners
13 December 2018

Shabwah, Yemen, 13 December 2018 – Since the beginning of the cholera outbreak in April 2017, more than 1.2 million of suspected cholera cases have been registered in Yemen, with over 2,500 associated deaths across the country. Children under the age of five continue to represent more than a quarter of all suspected cholera/acute watery diarrhea (AWD) cases.

In an effort to contain the epidemic, UNICEF implemented an integrated prevention and response plan to tackle AWD/cholera in high-risk areas and provide diarrhoea treatment, chlorination of water sources, rehabilitation of wastewater systems and hygiene awareness. This plan has been implemented by the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and the Health and Communication For Development (C4D) teams.

In October alone, UNICEF, in partnership with Ministry of Endowment, the Ministry of Public Health and Civil Society Organizations reached almost 900,000 people through various community activities in schools, mosques and community gatherings promoting essential family practices including hygiene practices for the prevention of cholera.

More than 150,000 households were reached during the same period by the active engagement of 7,000 community mobilizers who were working tirelessly to inform people about the importance of preventive hygiene measures. The Community Volunteers reached 200 Diarrhoea Treatment Centers/Oral Rehydration Centers in the high-risk districts, sensitizing at least 800 internally displaced people and gatherings of Muhamasheen.

Fathia, a displaced mother of seven children, recognizes the importance of such activities. “Cholera is a silent killer. We can prevent it by adopting simple practices and increasing the knowledge about this epidemic disease. Knowledge is key to save lives and protect ourselves from cholera.”

In the south of Yemen, in Shabwah governorate, together with its local partners, UNICEF uses C4D tools for cholera prevention to strengthen the knowledge and outreach skills of community volunteers and religious leaders on cholera prevention as well as the importance of the vaccination, thus creating a positive environment for future Oral Cholera Vaccination campaigns to be launched.

UNICEF Yemen/2018/C4D partners
A group of displaced children gathering after having watched an animated movie on lifesaving health and nutrition practices during a session on cholera prevention, in Attack village, Shabwah governorate.
UNICEF Yemen/2018/C4D partners
“Now I know what kind of practices, like washing my hands with soap or eating only washed fruits and vegetables, I can use to protect myself and others from cholera. I also learnt how to refer any suspected case of cholera,” says Faiza, 13 years old.
UNICEF Yemen/2018/C4D partners
Majid is 18 months and she was severely malnourished when she was referred to the health facility in Attack by Sameera, a UNICEF C4D community volunteer.
UNICEF Yemen/2018/C4D partners
Thanks to Sameera, 12 children have been referred and treated for malnutrition.
UNICEF Yemen/2018/C4D partners
Mohammed is almost two years old. He is currently being treated for malnutrition in Attack’s health facility.
UNICEF Yemen/2018/C4D partners
As UNICEF partner, the Shabwa community radio field team is engaging with communities, tracking their knowledge and perception about cholera during a live program.
UNICEF Yemen/2018/C4D partners
Shabwa community radio provides vital information on cholera prevention to the population.

So far, UNICEF, with the support of Sweden through their International Development Cooperation Agency - Sida, reached more than 64,000 people in the governorate and trained a total of 320 Community Volunteers, religious and community leaders as well as radio teams to engage with the communities and make the link with health and nutrition lifesaving practices, to reduce the risk of child malnutrition, especially among displaced and marginalized communities.