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Scaling Up Integrated Health Response for Life-Saving Impact

Someone holding a baby

A health worker holds a baby during an awareness-raising session in Khanfar, Abyan Governorate. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

A health worker holds a baby during an awareness-raising session in Khanfar, Abyan Governorate. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

More than half of Yemen’s population struggles to access food, safe drinking water, and adequate health services, in a context where only half of the country’s health facilities are fully or partially operational.

Malnutrition among mothers and children remains a major public health humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Approximately 5 million children under the age of five and 2.7 million pregnant and lactating women are in need of integrated life-saving interventions which include meeting critical nutrition needs alongside access to other essential basic services. Nearly half of all Yemeni children under the age of five are currently estimated to be moderately to severely stunted, setting them on a life course where they may not reach their full potential.

Mothers and children, especially in rural areas, face challenges in accessing health services due to the lack of specialized doctors and nurses, insufficient essential medical supplies, and limited access to services, resulting from economic and information barriers. Without easy access to health care and primary health information, young mothers and pregnant women often do not know how to detect, treat, and prevent malnutrition and other life-threatening conditions in their children.

CARE and the Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF) scaled up an integrated health response in Khanfar District, Abyan Governorate, to reach more women with awareness and basic health services, increase child screening rates, and improve child survival through early diagnosis of malnutrition.

The response supported health centers in Al-Kood and Kadamat Alsaid Qassem areas in Khanfar with much-needed equipment and medicines. In addition, it supported a mobile clinic and supported and built the capacity of health workers and community health volunteers to conduct awareness-raising and outreach activities.

Two women one in a white coat tending to a baby and one in a black outfit holding the baby
Sana Ahmed, a health worker, measures the mid-arm circumference of a child at the health center. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

Sana Ahmed, one of the supported health workers, works as a nurse in the therapeutic feeding unit at Kadamat Alsaid Qassem Area Health Center. Sana is responsible for admitting malnourished children to the Therapeutic Nutrition Unit, where she helps in preparing their examinations, tests, and treatment plans.

She enjoys her work because it saves children’s lives and gives them a good start in life. Speaking of her work, Sana says: “As a health worker at the therapeutic feeding unit, I always welcome the mother and child and check their registration information, admission and referral papers, and vaccination records. We start by measuring the mid-arm circumference (MUAC) height and weight, which is how we define acute malnutrition in children aged 6-59 months”.

“Based on the measurements, the child is referred to a doctor for diagnosis. Then, the child goes to the Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) room to receive the appropriate medication and treatment for their condition. These are some of the protocols of the therapeutic feeding units, and it’s heartwarming for me to accompany young children and their parents on their journey to recovery. There is nothing that makes me prouder than to see a young child strongly defeat malnutrition,” she concludes.

A man in a white coat wearing a mask and a stethoscope around his neck
Dr. Bassam Saeed, 52, supervisor of Kadamat Alsaid Qassem Health Center. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

The health center in Kadamat Alsaid Qassem area serves more than six villages. However, Dr. Bassam Saeed, supervisor of the health center, hopes to expand the center’s capacity in the future to serve more nearby villages and improve the health of a larger population.

“The center provides parents with nutritional counseling for their children, as well as vaccines, medicines and vitamins. We have helped over 1,000 patients and vaccinated 1,000 children. The dream is to help more people in the future,” says Dr. Bassam.

Due to economic hardship, Aisha Saad, a mother of five from Abyan Governorate, was unable to provide the necessary medication for her malnourished child.

Through outreach activities conducted by community health volunteers, she found out about the services available at the health center in the Kadamat Alsaid Qassem area.

A doctor examining a child
Dr. Bassam examines Aisha’s son. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

Aisha was relieved to learn that the health center provided free treatment for malnutrition. “The staff at the health center were accommodating. When I came to the center, they immediately gave my son special food to help him. And after the doctor examined him, they said he had a serious case of malnutrition and gave him treatment right away. They also taught me how to take care of him and how to feed him and my other children properly, so they don’t get sick,” said Aisha.

Now, Aisha visits the center regularly to ensure her 18-month-old son gets the care he needs.

In addition to community health volunteers, mobile clinics are an effective way for many women and children to access health information and services. The mobile clinic works to expand health care, nutrition, immunization, and maternal health services in rural, hard-to-reach areas to support pregnant women and newborns and provide health care to displaced people, who often face many challenges in accessing health care.

Two women in black outfits, one holding a baby
Asia Saleh, a midwife in the mobile clinic with a child and his mother during awareness activities in Khanfar, Abyan Governorate. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

Midwife Asia Saleh is one of the health workers at the mobile clinic. She and the team work tirelessly to reach remote areas and camps hosting internally displaced people (IDP), often over rough terrain. The mobile clinic team consists of five health workers who travel throughout the day between IDP camps and communities in need in Khanfar District to provide free, life-saving health services to the most vulnerable.

“It’s challenging to move between the most remote areas every day to reach every child and mother who needs our services,” says Asia. “Our mission as health workers is what motivates us to keep moving forward to reach more children than the day before. My greatest joy is to see babies and mothers happy and healthy,” she concludes.

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