Yemen: Volunteer saves the lives of villager children

Tuesday, 24 June 2014 08:23 GMT

Photo credit: UNICEF Yemen

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Community Health Volunteer Rokaiah Hatim, lives with her family some 115km or a 2.5 hour-journey from the Sana’a Governorate in central Yemen. She started volunteering in May 2013 in her own village of Alsabt and the two neighbouring villages: Azan and Bait Mahdi. Within eight months, Rokaiah had screened over 320 children under the age of five years and conducted over 205 awareness sessions. “I have always wanted to do something for my community and being a community health volunteer has been a real dream come true,” she says.

In Yemen, one in two children suffers from malnutrition; a combined result of poor quality drinking water, sanitation and hygiene practices, poor feeding practices and limited health services. Rokaiah’s role consists of house to house visits within the three villages where she screens children under five and encourages parents to take their children to the nearby health facility for referral. She also follows up on severely acutely malnourished children, taking it upon herself to deliver Plumpy’nut treatment to defaulting families who do not turn up with their children for treatment.

One such case was 16 months old Eliya Abdu Mahdi who was referred by Rokaiah to Sawq Alsabt health centre in Al Haymah Al Kharijiya. Eliya was admitted with a mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) of 10 cm, weight of 5.6 kg and height of 65 cm. Eliya is the last of four children and her mother is pregnant. She had not been adequately breast fed and the family could barely afford one meal a day.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been providing nutrition response which has tremendously expanded over the last year thanks to the support of partners such as the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), the number of children enrolled into a nutrition therapeutic programme to almost triple from 60 000 in 2012 to over 160 000 children. It also allowed to expand the geographic coverage to all 22 Yemenite governorates by end of 2013.

Eliya was discharged after eight weeks of full treatment at the outpatient therapeutic care programme (OTP) with a MUAC of 13 cm, weight 7.1kg and height of 67cm. “This gives me so much fulfilment“, says an emotional Rokaiah. “I can actually make a   difference and save a life!”. Rokaiah hopes to become a health worker or doctor in the future.

Najwa Y. Al-Dheeb,
Health & Nutrition Specialist

Alison Parker,
Chief of Communication


Find more stories from the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO).

Further information

ECHO Factsheet: Yemen