Lack of awareness undermines free delivery law

18 Feb
According to a study by Oxfam, only 14 percent of people know about the free delivery law issued in 1998 which has only been implemented in Yemen’s main public hospitals.

According to a study by Oxfam, only 14 percent of people know about the free delivery law issued in 1998 which has only been implemented in Yemen’s main public hospitals.

 

by: Malak Shaher

The Yemeni government issued the Law of Free Delivery in 1998 to help reduce the high mortality rate in Yemen, but the benefits are not extended to Yemenis in rural areas and public clinics.

“I do not understand how such a decree can be carried out if there is no support for clinics and hospitals,” said Hana Al-Hubaishi, who participated in a USAID workshop on implementing the law and providing access to care.

Such decrees should be funded before issued, Al-Hubaishi said, adding that delivery requires tools and medications that the government does not provide.

In spite of the law providing free deliveries, only 14 percent of women giving birth knew the law existed, according to a study by Oxfam in 2007. The study also revealed that implementation of the decree was limited to main hospitals, and not carried out in rural areas and public clinics.

Yemen has among the highest maternal mortality rates, with 365 deaths for each 100,000 live births, according to local official statistics. This is because of the long delivery period where people travel long distances to reach hospitals and lack of emergency obstetric care policies. Out of 1,000 infants, 69 die due to a lack of health services.  Only 47 percent of women receive care during pregnancy.

Last week, as part of the Responsive Governance Project, USAID conducted an advocacy training workshop on “Free Delivery, Family Planning and Emergency Obstetric Care” for  90 representatives from the Ministry of Health, National Safe Motherhood Alliance (NSMA) and the Yemen Family Care Association (YFCA). The workshop consisted of discussions on how to advocate for the implementation of the free delivery law, as well as family planning and emergency obstetric care policies to promote maternal health in Yemen.

Rami Al-Maqtari of NSMA presented a survey conducted in 2003 on maternal and child mortality rates at the USAID workshop. At least 40 percent of newborn babies whose mother died during delivery lived for less than a year, 27 percent of the children died during birth. Furthermore, for each of seven deaths due to delivery, 210 women face dangerous complications. The survey showed that 93 percent of mortalities happened in rural areas. At least 65 percent of the 365 died while delivering their babies at home.

According to UNICEF, one of the main reasons behind the high mortality rate in Yemen is that there is only one doctor per 1,000 people in Yemen and that only 60 percent of the Yemeni population has access to medical care. At least 80 percent of women deliver their babies at home in Yemen.

At least 74 percent of the mortality rate in Yemen is in rural areas. The distance between home and hospitals and clinics, along with the expenses of medication, medical checkups, and transportation are the main reasons for the deaths of women delivering their babies at home, according to the World Health Organization.

Nearly 15 percent of women delivering their babies at home did not go to hospitals due to the expense of delivery services, 11 percent were turned from the hospital because they could not pay, and five percent did not have transportation from home to the nearest clinic or hospital.

According to YFCA, of 1,000 infants, 69 die during their first two years and 78 die in their first five years, and seven mothers die each day while giving birth or within a month due to the complications of delivery.

The recommendations from the workshop focused on shifting the law to a decree issued by the Prime Minister for Yemen to implement the laws more quickly.

Charles Swagman, Technical Director of USAID, said the implementation of free delivery and free contraceptive decrees, as well as the formulation of a policy of obstetric care are two crucial issues.

It was recommended that the Ministry of Health and other Civil Society Organizations form a committee to monitor implementation of the law, especially in remote areas. In addition, the workshop suggested campaigns to increase awareness and sending teams from the ministry to different parts of the country.

Yemen’s winning World Press Photo

18 Feb
Samuel Aranda’s winning photo beat off competition from more than 100,000 other entries.
Samuel Aranda’s winning photo beat off competition from more than 100,000 other entries.

Fatima Al-Qaws, is the veiled woman cradling her wounded son after an anti-government demonstration in October. She is also one of the subjects in Samuel Aranda’s winning World Press photo.

Al-Qaws, who is from Ba’dan district in Ibb governorate but lives in Sana’a, explained that she only found out about the photo after her niece phoned from the UAE – though she still did not realize the significance of the picture.

“I thought that the photo people were talking about was actually my appearance in an interview on Suhail TV and Al-Jazeera some months ago, so I did not pay much attention to it,” she said, but her niece insisted it was her and her son.

Al-Qaws explained that she first saw the photo on her son’s mobile phone and recalled the day of October 15 on Al-Zubairy Street – a conflict line between anti-regime protesters and security forces at the time.

“It was after an attack against demonstrators on Al-Zubairy Street,” she said. “I went to the field hospital and did not see my son among the dead or wounded protesters. I checked the place again and saw my son lying on the ground suffocated with tear gas,” she explained. “So I embraced him and [Aranda] must have taken the photo at that moment.”

Her son, Zayed Al-Qawas, 18, said he thought it was a joke until more people called to tell him about Aranda’s picture.

“I did not expect this photo to win among thousands of pictures and it is a real support to the revolution,” he said. “It demonstrates that Yemenis are not extremists.”

Helping Yemen

The Spanish photographer’s photo, which was taken while on assignment for the New York Times, beat off competition from more than 100,000 entries to win one of the most prestigious photography awards on Friday.

The New York Times’ Lens Blog wrote that after hearing the news, Aranda called his mother in Spain, who cried for 45 minutes. He said that “while conversations might revolve around composition and form”, he hopes it will help the people of Yemen. He also commented on the help he received from Yemeni photographers – specifically mentioning Mohamed Al-Sayaghi of Reuters.

Aranda, who now lives in Tunisia, covered the Arab Spring from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. In December, he presented a selection of Arab Spring photos at the Spanish Embassy in Sana’a, alongside freelance photographer Lindsay Mackenzie.

‘An intimate moment’

Koyo Kouoh, one of the jury members on the World Press photo board, said: “It is a photo that speaks for the entire region. It stands for Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria, for all that happened in the Arab Spring.

“But it shows a private, intimate side of what went on. And it shows the role that women played, not only as care-givers, but as active people in the movement.”

Nina Berman, another World Press judge, added, “In the Western media, we seldom see veiled women in this way, at such an intimate moment. It is as if all of the events of the Arab Spring resulted in this single moment – in moments like this.”

Yemeni photographers are also proud of Aranda’s achievement. “We feel proud of this photo because it is very important for the world to have a new impression of Yemen,” Nadia Abdulla, a freelance Yemeni photographer, said.

“The foreign media has been presenting Yemenis as terrorists but this is the first time Yemen’s beautiful and expressive side has been shown,” she added.

Setting the standard

The 2011 World Press Photo award is the 55th annual contest in what is universally recognized as the world’s leading photojournalism prize, setting the standard for the profession.

The contest draws entries by professional press photographers, photojournalists and documentary photographers from across the world, with 5,247 photographers from 124 countries participating this year and 101,254 pictures judged.

The jury awarded prizes to 57 photographers in nine themed categories, with the Arab Spring and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami both making a big impact.

All entries are presented and judged anonymously by 19 internationally recognized professionals over two weeks before the winners are announced.

Aranda will officially receive his World Press award in Amsterdam on Saturday, April. 21, 2012. The award also carries a cash prize of €10,000 and a Canon EOS Digital SLR Camera and lens kit.

An exhibition of the award-winning images will be open to the public at the Oude Kerk, Oudekerksplein, in Amsterdam on Friday, April 20, until June 17.

A worldwide tour of the exhibition will also be launched, covering a record 105 venues in 45 countries. Combined with a yearbook, distributed internationally in seven languages, the winning images will reach a worldwide audience of millions in the course of the year

Mobile medical team to benefit rural Yemen

18 Feb

USAID Assistant Administrator Mara Rudman (right), exploring the mobile medical vehicle with Dr. Jamila Al-Ra’ebi, Deputy Minister of Health and Population (left).

USAID Assistant Administrator Mara Rudman (right), exploring the mobile medical vehicle with Dr. Jamila Al-Ra’ebi, Deputy Minister of Health and Population (left).

Story and Picture by: Malak Shaher
 

SANA’A, Feb. 12 — Access to medical care is about to become easier for marginalized people and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) living on the outskirts of Sana’a, as mobile medical teams get back to work.

On Sunday, USAID said another of its mobile medical teams, run in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Population and the Yemeni Family Care Association (YFCA), would be returning to work in on the outskirts of Sana’a bringing better healthcare to the districts of Sanhan, Shoub and Bani Hareth.

The team, which will be serving marginalized residents in these areas, is one of 15 that USAID launched over the last year.

According to Mara Rudman, USAID Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Bureau, the team will be providing health care services to 2,000 people a month.

The team will be providing health primary care, maternal and pediatric care, diagnosis, immunization and medications free of charge, added Rudman.

The clinic-on-wheels “will serve those living on the fringes of the city of Sana’a, as well as internally displaced persons who have sought refuge in the districts of Sanhan, Shoub and Bani Hareth,” said Rudman.

Much of the team’s work will involves providing first aid and health care to women and children, according to Nabil Alammari, YFCA executive manager.

Yemen has the highest infant mortality rate in the Middle East, with 37 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the UN. The maternal mortality rate is even higher at 47 out of every 1,000 mothers.

Alammari said that the team, which was unable to operate throughout 2011, is the third that USAID has supported. The previous two have been working in Hajja governorate, north of Sana’a.

The Yemen Family Care Association is a non-governmental and not-for-profit organization, already operating seven mobile medical teams across different governorates.

According to the YFCA, the seven teams have helped more than 60,000 patients since it the scheme was established in 1976.

At the relaunch of the mobile medical service, Jamila Al-Ra’ebi, Deputy Minister of Health and Population, said, “The crises Yemen has gone through last year should make us work collectively to reduce the [maternal] mortality rate.”

She said that despite the fact that Yemen does not appear to be on target for its 2015 Millennium Development Goals, which include reducing infant mortality rates, improving literacy and reducing unemployment, the support it has received from international organizations such as USAID and the UN has helped women in remote, rural areas.

During 2011’s political crisis, only six of the 15 mobile medical teams were operating due to logistical issues and a lack of electricity. However, USAID said that all 15 would now resume work in Yemen’s remote and hard-to-reach regions.

Women seek one-third quota in government

2 Feb
At least one hundred women participated in the workshop meant to prepare for the Woemn National Conference to be held on March 8th.
photo and Story by Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:30-01-2012

SANA’A, Jan. 29 – A two-day workshop intended to help women obtain their political rights during the nation’s transitional period was held on Sunday in Sana’a.

The workshop was conducted by USAID through the Responsive Governance Project (RGP) in cooperation with the Ministry of Human Rights and the Women’s Supreme Council.

RGP Party Chief Scott Thomas said that having women from across the political spectrum is “an extremely good thing and an example of the kind of democracy we all hope will grow and flourish in Yemen.”

The objective of the workshop was to find common ground among women for the conference on March 8. “This is not to say that everyone must agree on everything. But a consensus on key elements on which the women at the workshop can agree will be found,” said Thomas.

Minister of Human Rights Houria Mashhoor said, “The workshop includes not only people from different backgrounds, but also younger women. This indicates that the youth are part of the upcoming phase of change.”

The Women’s National Committee holds an annual celebration on National Women’s Day. At the celebration, focus points are gathered from all around Yemen.

The minister said that this wasn’t the first time such a conference was held. However, participants regarded this conference as more important, with a focus placed on women’s participation rights on the political stage during the two-year transitional period.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative, which is one of the most important factors in the framing of the constitution, included a 20 percent quota for women in one of its drafts. Before, in 2004’s National Women’s Development Strategy, Mashhoor said that they demanded the quota be set at 30 percent for women’s participation in government.

The workshop was attended by nearly a hundred representatives with various political backgrounds, as well as deputy ministers and women’s rights activists.

A committee of eight women will be formed in coordination with the RGP to prepare the national conference.

The women should be from different political, governmental and civil society organization (CSO) backgrounds.

The committee will start meeting on February 1, with its last session planned for March 15. It is to meet once a week to prepare to conduct activities in support of women, to coordinate with donors, and engage women with different social and political issues.

The workshop aims to gather women from throughout the political spectrum and discuss common needs, regardless of individual political agendas. This is to help them attain a considerable quotain committees during the two-year transitional period.

During the workshop, women occupying high positions in ministries presented their visions for their prospective roles in the transitional period.

Nabila Al-Mufti, a lawyer and member of the Watan Collation, gave a presentation analyzing how fair the GCC has been to women.

One draft for the initiative said women should participate in all committees formed during the transitional period. This means that there should even be women on the military committee, according to Al-Mufti.

USAID supported three workshops during the past year. The first was on April 25 and included 35 women from opposition party leadership roles and civil society organizations, as well as youth activists. The second workshop was held on May 23, in which 40 women from the government participated. The third workshop was held on October 26, in cooperation with the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

35 young female trainees from the training center of the Ministry of Youth and Sports participated in the workshop.

The main target of these workshops was to guarantee a 30 percent quota for women in all transitional councils and in the constitution formulation committee.

Generation of Peace initiative aimed at Yemen’s youth

23 Jan
A boy performs on stage at the USAID “Generation of Peace” opening ceremony on Saturday. Picture by Dorelyn Jose

Malak ShaherYemen Times

Published:23-01-2012

SANA’A, Jan. 21st – A new initiative called “Generation of Peace,” aimed at fostering understanding between 1000 youths from different backgrounds, was launched on Sunday.

The initiative is being held in cooperation with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The “Generation of Peace” initiative aims at encouraging Yemeni youth to be more productive and constructive members of society.

To be conducted in training workshops, sports activities, and an art contest, the initiative’s activities are designed to help youths resolve existing conflicts and reduce the risk of future unrest and conflicts during Yemen’s transitional period. Workshop topics will include democratic processes, civic participation, community service, and tolerance.

“This initiative gives youths an opportunity to enhance relations in their society. This job is not only for officials’,” said Ahmad Al-Qubati, 23, from the Resonate Yemen institute.

“Such initiatives bring us together and make us understand each other. We should not work separately without knowing how the other side is working,” he said.

Nearly 300 youths from political coalitions and universities in Sana’a joined representatives of civil society and non-governmental organizations as well as government and USAID representatives for the initiative’s opening ceremony.

“Today’s youth play an integral role in bringing about positive social change,” said USAID Technical Director Charles Swagman in a speech delivered at the ceremony. “This collaborative project will help maximize Yemeni youth’s potential to contribute to civil society and steer their country towards a bright future.”

“Generation of Peace” activities have been designed to encourage interaction, dialogue and to help promote an acceptance of differences among youth participants. “This job is not just for the officials; this is everybody’s job,” said Ahmad Al-Qubati, 23, from the Resonate Yemen Institute, a youth organization.

The initiative has been implemented through USAID’s Community Livelihoods Project (CLP). Working closely with the government, CLP focuses on agriculture and water, health, education, governance and economic empowerment in communities. Through the “Generation of Peace” activities, CLP will encourage youths to contribute in those fields that are vital to Yemen’s growth and stability.

It is hoped that the initiative will encourage participants to share knowledge acquired from their families and communities, as well as to be more positively engaged in the political process. The implementation of the initiative will be carried out in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports as well as local civil society organizations.

“I hereby tell our youth that this is the time to work together and achieve our ultimate goal, that of peacefully living together in a country that enjoys stability through our collective work,” said Mo’ammar Al-Eryani, Minister of Youth and Sports.

“For this purpose, we will support every work supporting an environment that builds the youth’s capacities and talents, and work with them for a generation free of violence.”

Do dreams really come true?

19 Jan
Cartoon by: Nabil Al-QanesStory by: Malak ShaherPublished:19-01-2012

In the time of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), the call for prayer was introduced after it appeared in two of his companions’ dreams. However, hundreds of years before that, Joseph interpreted dreams for the Pharaoh of Egypt and his people. The pharaoh dreamt that seven skinny cows ate seven fat cows. Joseph told him that Egypt would bear witness to seven good years, a time when people would grow vegetables and fruits. After these seven years, the next seven years would be hard, with people forced to eat what they had saved during the previous seven years. Ever since, dream interpretation has taken up a great portion of people’s time. Yemenis are no exception to this. They try to find meaning in their dreams, and attempt to use them to predict the future and even to dictate their actions.

Bakr Al-Junaid is a dream interpreter. A woman called on him to ask that he find meaning in her dreams. The dream the woman had became true two days later, when the mosque where the president and a number of ministers were praying was bombed.

“She said she saw that a number of moons and a planet were hovering in the air when a mosque minaret fell down on them,” said Al-Junaid.

As she went on to describe the details of her dream, she said she had seen an ambulance waiting outside the mosque.

Al-Junaid interpreted the dream and said that a mosque would be attacked and that the president and some ministers would be injured. But the presence of an ambulance meant they would survive.

According to Al-Junaid, who has been interpreting dreams for more than 15 years, the moon indicates a minister or somebody in a higher position, while the planet represents the president.

After this dream, Sabafon and MTN, two telecommunications companies in Yemen, started dream interpretation services. Al-Junaid became popular in his field, interpreting dreams for a fee when people dial 1902.

According to Al-Junaid, there are two types of dreams:  those that reveal one’s previous experiences, and dreams known in Arabic as Ro’a, or visions, which reveal events that may happen in the future.

According to Muslim dreams interpreters, one dream can be read in a number of different ways, depending on the person who actually had the dream. So two people might have had similar dreams but receive totally different interpretations.

One day in the Islamic era, two men went to a dream interpreter. Each said he had dreamt about the call for prayer. The imam told one of the men that he would go for pilgrimage and the other that he was a thief.

When his companions asked him why he gave two different interpretations for the same dream he said, “I read their faces. The first person had a face of a good man while the other was bad and I interpreted according to verses in the Quran.”

As the popularity of dream interpretation grew in the Arab world, a number of TV shows cropped up to capitalize on people’s interest in the subject. People watch the shows carefully so that they may apply the interpretations to their own dreams.

In March 2011, Ahmad dreamt that he was on his way to perform the Friday prayer, when Muslims gather to pray together at the mosques. He was surprised that he was the only one in the mosque. He saw an imam bathed in light, who told him:

“After 20, 20 will fall down, 20 will die and 20 will survive and you will be the only witness.” Ahmad asked the imam to make himself clear and he explained that 20 towers will fall, 20 important persons will die, 20 states will interfere for reconciliation, and that Ahmad would be the only witness. Ahmad saw the names of the 20 and said that among them were famous people.

“Please I really cannot stop thinking about it…I need that dream to be explained,” he told the interpreter.

A dream interpreter named Abu Hafs told him it meant that the year 2011 would witness drastic changes in the Arab world. He said that some of the changes would lead to chaos; that is, until states stepped in to solve the problems – as has since happened in Yemen. However, skeptics might say that by the time Ahmad’s dream was interpreted, the Arab Spring was already in full swing, with both Tunisia’s Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak forced out of office and with mass protests already taking place in Yemen.

According to the website dreamresearch.net, most people over the age of ten dream at least four to six times a night during a stage of sleep called Rapid Eye Movement – which is itself a distinguishing characteristic of this stage of sleep. During this stage, the brain becomes as active as is when a person  walks, though not all parts of the brain are active.

According to the same website, people actually forget 95-99 percent of their dreams.

Sigmund Freud, known as the father of psychoanalysis, claimed that unfulfilled urges and impulses – which, one way or another, must be released – surface in disguised forms as dreams.

Even though most dreams are simply reflections of experiences they’ve already had, many people nonetheless look for interpretations – perhaps even going so far as to make decisions based on such readings, leaving their waking relationships and actions affected.

Ahlam Mohammad, 16, said that she barely tells what her dreams are about as she “doesn’t care and doesn’t want to know about interpretations of them”.

“I dreamed that my younger brother was flying away and he was not looking nice. I felt scared and I simply could not talk to him for a week.”

Fireworks in Yemen: a day-to-day routine

19 Jan

Malak Shaher
Yemen Times

Published:12-01-2012
Yemen has been witnessing a lot of changes and 2011 was an unforgettable year for many. During the Yemeni youth revolution, gunfire and blasts were heard on an almost daily basis as clashes erupted between pro-government and pro-revolution forces – and sometimes also in celebration.

But since July 2011, it hasn’t just been gunfire and shelling that has echoed across the city; fireworks can be seen and heard almost every night.

It was ten at night on July 7 when all of a sudden, Nadia Ahmad, 23, of Sana’a heard huge blasts and gunfire. Her father called her and the rest of the family to hide under a big table in the living room of their house so that no one got hurt.

“I thought it was the war,” she said. “We did not know what was going on until my cousin called us saying that we should not be scared because the blasts were actually fireworks.”

For her, that day marked the beginning of fireworks becoming a “day-to-day” routine. In her neighborhood, people are allying Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was in power for 33 years before signing a deal to step down in November.

“It turned out that they were happy when they found out that he survived the attack against the Al-Nahdain mosque where he was praying, and were celebrating,” she said.

Ahmad said that men in her neighborhood light fireworks simply when they “feel bored”.

However, fireworks began to spread across the city a month before exploding over Nadia Ahmad’s home. On June 4, when President Saleh left for Saudi Arabia for treatment after being injured in the mosque attack, fireworks were set off in Change Square.

A month and three days later, army forces and government supporters shot bullets into the air and set off fireworks in almost all Yemeni provinces on hearing the news that the President would survive, according to state television.

“Fireworks cover the skies of the capital Sana’a and other Yemeni governorates to celebrate the successful surgery of President Saleh,” Yemen official television channel reported, according to Xinhua news agency.

Before the crisis, the Ministry of Interior was the authority buying fireworks to set them off on national days. However, during the uprising, “things fell out of the hands of the state and people were not held accountable if they bought fireworks or even firing bullets into the open air,” according to Riyadh Al-Zubair, a secretary in the minister’s office.

Al-Zubair added that the ministry used to give permission, with limitations, for those who wanted to buy fireworks.

“The problem in Yemen now is gunfire, which is more dangerous. If some set fireworks off, others shoot at weddings or whenever they just feel happy.”

Children are terrified

Mahmoud Mohammad, a husband and a father of four, says the sound of fireworks terrifies his children and that they shout “war, war!” when they hear them. Sometimes, they awake late at night when they hear blasts. He added that the setting off of fireworks is not a new problem, but through 2011, it became a much bigger issue.

In Mohammad’s village in Taiz, women sometimes burn the remains of papers to light a fire in the stove. He said that one day a woman found a cardboard box and assuming it was empty, used it as fuel. “It was for fireworks and there were some material remaining. She put it and left it, causing a big blast,” he said. “But luckily, she was away when the stove exploded.”

According to a worker at one of the certified shops selling fireworks, who preferred not to be named, they only sell fireworks to those who show them invitations for weddings.

“We only sell to those who live outside the city of Sana’a. But there are other uncertified places who smuggle fireworks and sell them to people for less money,” he said.

A box of fireworks is sold at their shop for YR 2,500 or USD 12 while it costs half that at a shop not certified by the Ministry of Interior.

“People are using the insecurity in the country to do whatever they want. They set off fireworks and even sometimes start fires,” said Mohammad Al-Qaedi from the Ministry of Interior.