Sana’a, Yemen, April 2019 – When the children see her thin silhouette in a white coat approaching their village, they run to meet her and accompany her the rest of the way. Her name means good news in Arabic and that’s exactly what Bashair is bringing in this mountainous area of Sana’a governorate in Yemen, where she works as a community health worker.
As Yemen enters its fifth year of conflict, the health sector is collapsing. Only half of all health facilities are functional and even these face severe shortages in medicine, equipment, and staff. Most of the health workers have not received a salary in the last three years. As a result, basic services have been disrupted, especially in rural areas, leaving 19.7 million people in need of basic healthcare, including 10.2 million children. Children bear the heaviest burden with a child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes, including malnutrition and vaccine-preventable diseases.
Bashair knows this situation very well. In her remote village of Bani Zayet in Manakhah district of Sana’a, she witnesses cases of malnutrition and severe infections due to preventable diseases, such as measles, rubella, cholera or diphtheria on a daily basis, particularly among young children. Without access to health services, these cases can turn fatal and many people died on their way to the health centre, which is three hours’ walk away from the village.
One year ago, the lives of the inhabitants of Bani Zayed village improved significantly when Bashair got nominated to join the community health worker network. After receiving an intense training of three weeks on community health, child nutrition, integrated management of childhood illness and maternal care, she started providing health and nutrition services in her village, as well as in neighboring areas. "I started working immediately after the training. On my first day, the sun was really high, but I insisted on visiting all the villages in one day to make people know that I am here to help them,” recalls Bashair.
This is not an easy job but Bashair is determined to bring hope and support to her community members. Bashair starts her day early by receiving patients in her house and then leaves for one of the four villages she works in. She walks for hours carrying medicines and medical supplies to reach nearby villages. “The most difficult part is the distance between the villages and the rough and rugged road,” explains the 20-year-old health worker.
Bashair sees herself as a health educator. For her, self-awareness is very important and giving the right information to people can keep them healthy and prevent them from contracted treatable and preventable diseases. “Many of the patients who come to me suffer from diarrhea and I often find out that the reason is that they fetch and store water in dirty containers.”
Bashair has many hopes for the future. “I aspire to widen my medical knowledge and take part in more trainings, so I can serve my community better. I’m very proud of myself and the services I provide to people, especially children. I want to develop my skills to be able to help and treat more children,” she concludes.