A Letter From Yemen

Dr. Nuzhat Rafique

Dr. Nuzhat Rafique | UNICEF | Yemen | 2019

 

My name is Dr. Nuzhat Rafique and I am currently working as Health Manager in UNICEF’s country office in Yemen

Every day I work to save the lives of babies and their mothers who are directly affected by the war in Yemen. 

The war has desolated services, leaving women and their babies extremely vulnerable. Women in Yemen don’t have access to basic care and medical facilities. 

Even though UNICEF and our other sister UN organizations are working tirelessly to help mothers in Yemen, the majority of women cannot access free skilled services during labour or emergency care if complications arise. 

No Access to Basic Maternal Services

Almost 60% of mothers in Yemen still deliver their children outside of hospital, depriving them and their newborns of essential maternal care. 

Pregnancy should be a normal, enjoyable part of every woman’s life, but sadly this isn’t the case in Yemen. 

malnourished child yemen

Mothers and babies are amongst the most highly vulnerable in Yemen. | Yemen | 2018 | Baholis 

Malnutrition is prevalent throughout the country, leaving women underweight, weak and sickly. A poor nutritional status and a lack of prenatal care make childbirth especially dangerous in Yemen.

Women and their newborns have a higher risk of developing complications during pregnancy and labour, especially haemorrhage, obstructed labour and infections. 

Similarly, asphyxia, low birth weight and prematurity are now the highest causes of infant mortality during the first month of life. 

My Work as a Doctor in Yemen 

Every day, I try my best to deliver essential and lifesaving services to mothers. I work with skilled midwives to ensure mothers in rural areas aren’t forgotten. I work so that sick and premature babies receive essential care. 

Each day starts with the thought of saving people. Saving them from the horrors of war, from hunger and poverty. 

yemen war

A young boy runs with his tyre as he plays alongside buildings damaged by fighting in Saada’s old city. | Yemen | 2017 | Clarke 

Sometimes, airstrikes at night compel me to stay awake with thoughts of the people suffering from direct hits. But every morning brings hope. 

When I return to my closed UN compound at night, I think of my life back in Pakistan. I think of my family, my home, my husband and two sons.

By my thoughts are always interrupted by security checkpoints, the sight of armoured vehicles driving through the streets or the sound of children playing amongst the turmoil.

It’s then I realise that these children need me more than my own.   

UNICEF’s Work on the Ground 

Currently, it’s very difficult to keep facilities operational and staff motivated to deliver timely and quality services. What many people don’t realise is that Yemeni health workers have not been paid in almost two years. 

Escalating inflation and high transportation costs also make it difficult for families in rural areas to attend hospital. 

midwives in yemen

UNICEF midwives often travels long distances over rugged terrain to visit their patients | Yemen | 2018

UNICEF is starting a transport voucher scheme for such cases that would help in saving mothers and newborns life and averting preventable deaths. 

We’re also continually working to train midwives and provide health workers with the necessary equipment needed for a safe delivery.  

My Only Wish 

Donors who support Yemen are making a commendable contribution toward saving innocent lives, but our workload is only increasing and we need to reach more mothers.

Every day, I wish and pray for the safety of all mothers and babies during pregnancy and labour. 

I pray for safe deliveries and healthy babies who will grow into happy children. I pray that mothers will see their children grow up in a peaceful and safe environment. 

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