The mothers making masks as COVID-19 comes to Yemen

Families are empowered to take steps to protect themselves while the global community works to bring this threat under control

UNICEF Yemen
A water point at an IDP centre in Aden
UNICEF Yemen/2020
13 July 2020

Over five years of war, has left the health system in Yemen on the brink of collapse and caused catastrophic damage to water and sanitation infrastructure. UNICEF estimates that only half of health facilities are running and currently nearly 18 million people need water service support. The humanitarian community are concerned about the devastating impact COVID-19 would have on a population already carrying the heavy burden of conflict.

For weeks Yemen has been bracing for an outbreak of COVID, on 10 April the first case was confirmed in Hadramawt in the south of the country.

A mother sews masks on a sewing machine in the M2M centre
UNICEF Yemen/2020
A mother sews masks on a sewing machine in the M2M centre

In the Al-Shab IDP centre in Aden nearly 350 families are sheltering after fleeing fighting in Taiz and Al Hodeidah. Living conditions in the ccentres are cramped, increasing the risk of the spread of disease.

Living conditions in the centre are cramped and water is scarce, making it difficult to practice the public health guidance to protect against COVID-19
UNICEF Yemen/2020
Living conditions in the centre are cramped and water is scarce, making it difficult to practice the public health guidance to protect against COVID-19

UNICEF and partners have been working in these centres in Aden for some time. Their assistance includes bringing in health services and water supplies. After the outbreak of cholera in 2017, they mobilised groups of mothers to become peer educators with vital support from DFID. These mother to mother educators (M2M) spread health information and hygiene supplies to their neighbours in the hope they can protect more families from the outbreak of disease.

With the money they earned from their peer educator work they brought sewing machines to make clothes and generate some income.

A mother sews masks on a sewing machine in the M2M centre
UNICEF Yemen/2020
A mother sews masks on a sewing machine in the M2M centre

When they learned of the spread of COVID-19 around the world and of the subsequent health advice, the mothers mobilised. For the last few weeks they have been sewing masks for families. They now make up to 100 masks a day and distribute them to families while educating them on the importance of socially distancing and handwashing.

“As a member of the mother's clubs I gained great knowledge on how to protect myself, my family and my community from COVID-19. I try to spread messages while maintaining social distancing and protective measures. The incentives I gained enabled me to buy a sewing machine tailoring nice clothes. Now I am also making masks for needy people who cannot afford to buy,”

says Umm Ibrahim, an IDP in the centre and a M2M peer educator.
Umm Ibrahim at her sewing machine
UNICEF Yemen/2020
Umm Ibrahim at her sewing machine

While countries continued to be occupied by their own COVID crises, over 12 million children in Yemen are still in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. They need health, education, protection support and access to clean water, sanitation and shelter. These needs are urgent and persistent.

The threat of COVID-19 means these children and their communities are vulnerable to yet another threat. Yet in the hands of these mothers, families are empowered to take steps to protect themselves while the global community works to bring this threat under control.

Newly made masks hang in the shed used by the M2M group
UNICEF Yemen/2020
Newly made masks hang in the shed used by the M2M group