UNICEF-Supported Mobile Clinics Save Lives in Yemen's Hajjah
According to reports published in 2022, about 2.2 million children under the age of five in Yemen suffer from acute malnutrition
In the heart of Hajjah province, located in the northwest of war-torn Yemen, a group of dedicated health workers is saving the lives of malnourished children every day through UNICEF-supported mobile clinics.
Fatima Ahmed Saleh Al-Hakami is a community health volunteer with nine years of experience under her belt. Today, she is among the healthcare professionals who work in one of these mobile clinics, helping young mothers, children, and pregnant women detect, treat, and prevent malnutrition and other life-threatening conditions.
"We perform MUAC (Mid-upper arm circumference) measurements for children, detecting severe, moderate, and mild malnutrition cases." "We also diagnose pediatric edema, detect malnourished pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, raise awareness about symptoms of malnutrition, and much more."
According to reports published in 2022, about 2.2 million children under the age of five in Yemen suffer from acute malnutrition. In some areas of Yemen, the number of cases of acute malnutrition among children under five has reached its highest level ever.
17-year-old Fatima Ahmed Ali Al-Hakami and her family of twelve live in a secluded Al-Jeref area in Yemen's Hajja province. Her youngest son was diagnosed and treated for malnutrition in one of the mobile clinics sponsored by UNICEF.
"My son was very weak," the young mother remembers. "The nearest hospital is very far away from us, and we would never be able to bring our boy there on time. But in this mobile clinic, they treat children suffering from malnutrition and give us all the medicine. They also take care of pregnant women and nursing mothers and give vaccines and vitamins. I see that my son is improving every day, and praise God for these mobile clinics!" she adds.
Nabil Abdullah Saleh Al-Quzai is a SAM (severe acute malnutrition) officer at the Mobile Medical Clinic deployed in the Mabyani Rectorate. He is among those who detect acute malnutrition in children who arrive at the hospital and take immediate measures to prevent threats to their lives.
"Whether it is severe acute malnutrition or moderate acute malnutrition, once children arrive, they undergo screening and are then registered if they meet the admission criteria." "Severely acutely malnourished children are then given routine medications, along with the essential nutrition supplies."
Even when the threat to young patients’ lives disappears, the healthcare workers of the mobile clinics keep observing their condition, making sure that they are stable and continue developing according to their age.
"We insist on regular visits and weight measurements to make sure that the malnourished children recover normally," Nabil continues. "Severely malnourished children need proper care and a lot of attention during the recovery period. That is why we also focus on instructing families on how to take care of their children at home to prevent malnourishment in the future. Otherwise, they can develop disabilities or even die."
Both healthcare workers and their patients admit that the mobile clinics became a relief and salvation for hundreds of thousands of people who now live in remote areas of Yemen or have been internally displaced due to the war actions that have not subsided in the country since 2015.
"Most of these people simply have no way to get to hospitals," Fatima explains. "They don’t have vehicles, and the transportation costs that can total about 20,000 rials are unaffordable for these poor families."
"Routine treatment is essential for children who suffer from malnutrition, and sometimes we experience a shortage of the essential medications in the mobile clinics," Nabil admits. "We need more vital medicines, including medications for diarrhea, respiratory infections, and skin conditions for children," he adds.
"Also, today these mobile clinics still cannot work regularly, and it is insufficient," Fatima continues. "We need to receive more training courses and certification so these clinics can have more midwives and other qualified personnel to serve the community even better."
These challenges are likely to remain until peace returns to Yemen. However, the support of UNICEF, its donors, and partners allows us to deploy mobile clinics in wider areas, reaching out to thousands of young children and families, saving lives, and giving hope every day.