Yemen’s superheroes: community health workers

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
13 August 2020

The ongoing crisis in Yemen has left the health system on the brink of collapse. Communities in rural areas are often deprived of vital basic medical services. This causes unimaginable suffering. The burden often borne by children who are vulnerable to disease and malnutrition.

To improve health outcomes in these communities the European Union and UNICEF have supported a network of Community Health Workers (CHWs) and primary health care facilities cross the country. The programme strengthens the ability of rural communities to access quality health and nutrition services aiming to reach nearly one million children and 240,000 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

Here are the stories of some of the hero community health workers working across Yemen:

Fatima Khatem, works in Hamadan District, Sana'a Governorate:

“I feel proud of what I do in providing health services to children and women in the community and in the internally displaced person camp in Dharawan Area. The services that I provide to the local community and the displaced in Dharawan Camp include awareness-raising and sensitization and child and prenatal care,” she says.

Community health worker, Fatima Khatem, following up on two children after recovering from malnutrition in Dharawan Camp in Hamadan District, Sana'a.
UNICEF Yemen/2020
Community health worker, Fatima Khatem, following up on two children after recovering from malnutrition in Dharawan Camp in Hamadan District, Sana'a.

In Hasban Sub-district of Manakhah District, Sana'a Governorate, community health worker, Hajar Al-Jidawi, has started delivering services after completing a UNICEF- supported training programme. Hajar lives in the village of Jidaw, three hours away from the district centre. Although she faces daily challenges, navigating rugged terrain, she is devoted to her house-to-house visits.  She conducts malnutrition and health assessments and promotes community awareness about the importance of hygiene and the prevention of diseases.

Hajar says, "I feel great about my work as it has helped improve health services for the villagers. There aren't enough words to describe my happiness seeing a smile on the face of a child whose health condition has improved, or a woman who received prenatal care.” She continues, “The CHW Project has made a positive impact on health indicators and the detection of malnutrition and other diseases.”

The village of Jidaw in Hasban Sub-district of Manakhah District, where health worker Hajar serves.
UNICEF Yemen/2020
The village of Jidaw in Hasban Sub-district of Manakhah District, where health worker Hajar serves.

Community health workers' interventions strive to improve health services for people who lack adequate health care and are most vulnerable to disease to have better health indicators in rural communities that lack those services.

Hajar continues her work while taking all precautionary measures to prevent Covid-19
UNICEF Yemen/2020
Hajar continues her work while taking all precautionary measures to prevent Covid-19

According to the CHW Project officer in Manakhah District in Sana’a, Mohammed Thabet, "The health workers provide services to their communities after receiving theoretical and practical training in nutrition, reproductive health, child care and first aid. Mohammed stresses the importance of the role of female health workers in providing services to people who are unable to access health facilities and benefit from their provided services.

Improving Health Services

In the same context, Basma Al-Astuh, a health worker in Dhayan Village of Iyal Surayh District in Amran Governorate, says:

"I feel exhilarated by serving my family and community in the village that suffers from the lack of health services owing to the distance of the health centre. I've noticed how relieved parents feel when they see their children receiving adequate health care after going through a great deal of suffering."

She confirms that the CHW Project made a big difference in the community through improved services and access to primary health care for children and women.

Basma while conducting home visits and following up on cases of children and women in need of care
UNICEF YEMEN/2020
Basma while conducting home visits and following up on cases of children and women in need of care

According to Amal Al-Shawish, a 28-year-old mother of four, "The community health worker in the village, Basma, saved me from death due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth." Amal lives in Dhayan Village of Amran Governorate. She visits Basma's small clinic to follow up on her condition and the condition of her children. Amal confirms the importance of the services provided by Basma who monitored her condition and saved her life after suffering from excessive bleeding during pregnancy. " Moreover, the mother of four indicates that Basma followed up on her case and referred her to the hospital in Amran to receive proper treatment and care, which saved her life.

Community health worker, Basma Al-Astuh, examining a child in Dhayan Village of Amran Governorate.
UNICEF Yemen/2020
Community health worker, Basma Al-Astuh, examining a child in Dhayan Village of Amran Governorate.

"The CHW Project aims to train female health workers from the targeted areas in child care, awareness-raising and sensitization, reproductive health, and providing immunization and nutrition services for children," reports Dr. Abdul-Alim Al-Tha'wani, coordinator of the Community Health Worker (CHW) Project at the Health Office in Amran Governorate.  

UNICEF is working through the CHW Project to maintain the country's health system in order to ensure better health care for every child. It also continues to support the expansion of primary health care services for children and women, as well as regular community outreach services for local communities.