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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.


Fireworks in Yemen: a day-to-day routine

19 Jan

Malak Shaher
Yemen Times

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.

Building the minds of Yemen’s orphans

6 Dec
Orphans at Dar Al-Aytam read books in their new library, established on Thursday.

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times


“We are the seeds of this country, we will make our country prosper, we love knowledge and we spread love everywhere.”

With those words hundreds of orphans hailed the arrival of a new library to Dar Al-Aytam, a state funded orphanage in Sana’a. The children were listening to a song and as it drew to an end they said in one collective and excited voice, “I love books.”

The new library, established on Thursday, is part of the “I love my book” campaign, run by Global Change Makers, a British Council initiative.

This year, the campaign has targeted three public schools, one private school, a school for special needs students and the Orphan House in Sana’a, according to Elham Al-Quhali, a project assistant at the British council.

“We found that the children are thirsty for knowledge and reading,” Al-Quhali told the Yemen Times. “They want to be pushed forward and we want to continue this program. We urge other organizations to join forces with us.”

At the library’s opening, small boys were pushing each other and rushing to get inside the new library. Hamza Mohammad, 9, could barely contain his excitement. “These books are beautiful,” he said with a sparkle in his eyes. With books I learn new things.”

Mohammed Al-Shami, the head of Dar Al-Aytam, stressed the significance of this ‘generous gift.’

“This library has added greatly to our school, which now contains many more subjects for learning,” Al-Shami said. “With the establishment of this library, our orphans will occupy a place in others minds. People will be able to imagine them reading.”

The campaign is coordinated by young members of Global Changemakers and financed by the British council.

Global Changemakers formed in 2007, is a British Council initiative, aimed at providing support for young social entrepreneurs and community activities.

“Books build the minds of small children,” said Haitham Al-Thobabi, 22, a member of the Global Changemakers.

The campaign also involves establishing a reading club and targeting schools and the publishing of a quarterly magazine. The magazine will consist of the children’s writings and be distributed in the schools and supporting organizations.

It will create cooperation between teachers at the school libraries where students will be introduced to new books and encouraged to read.

“Most children in Yemen are not used to reading and the only books they do read belong to the school,” said Najeba Haddad, Yemen’s deputy minister of culture.

Illiteracy rates are increasing among small children in Yemen, according to a recent report by the Yemeni Shura Council. Around two million children are not enrolled in school and a large number of students drop out during their early years of schooling in order to work to support their families.

According to Hadad, it is important to instill a motivation to read in children from a young age who otherwise wouldn’t develop this important habit.

“I encourage the efforts of such campaigns because they involve more children and make reading interesting for them,” she added.

Boys and girls sing a song about the importance of reading at the library opening day.  TY photo by Malak Shaher