Yemen’s Tragedy: A First Responder’s Blog from Inside the Crisis
February 15, 2016 — Blog Entry #16
Editor’s note: As Yemen’s civil war approaches its third year with no end in sight, wide spread devastation has forced millions from their home, and the worsening nutrition situation is threatening more lives than ever before. Mothers and young children are among those most seriously affected. Doa’a Kutbi, a health program officer who works from International Medical Corps’ office in Aden, has been caught up in the conflict from the beginning. She recently returned to work following a two months leave of absence after giving birth to her second child. This is her first blog entry since resuming work.
Life has changed for us in Yemen.
Health services have been disrupted and there is a lot of malnutrition, especially in the villages. It is difficult for pregnant women to reach hospitals and access healthcare services that they need in order to deliver safely.
After giving birth to my second son, I can only work five hours a day — but being a mother has given me a positive energy that has only motivated me to work even harder. I now understand other mothers better. I can feel what they feel. I know their struggles and I am living the same life they are. I am in the same situation as the people I support.
My new baby, Islam, was born with a cleft palate. I knew something was wrong when instead of bringing my baby directly to me, they took him to an incubator right after the birth. My older son, Sam, suffers from a mild congenital heart malformation, so I was terrified. When they told me that he was born with a cleft palate I felt relief — as a doctor and a humanitarian who works with mothers every day, teaching them about the right breastfeeding practices, I knew I could handle this.
Still it has been difficult — hard not to be able to provide what my son needs.
Islam is three months old now, and it is getting easier. However, this experience has helped me understand the needs of other mothers, who, like me, are unable to get specialist treatment. Having a child with a cleft palate makes breastfeeding even more difficult and there are no surgeons left in Yemen to provide the kind of (corrective) operations required.
International Medical Corps runs infant and young child feeding (IYCF) corners in various health facilities in Lahj and Aden, which support nursing mothers, teaching them about the importance of breastfeeding. Here, women can also breastfeed in privacy while waiting for their consultation appointment.
I am now looking for ways to improve and strengthen these breastfeeding corners to support women who have difficulties breastfeeding and provide counseling for those who need it. I am also hoping to find a donor who can support surgical camps here in Yemen- especially for those suffering from serious medical issues who have no access to qualified surgeons.
International Medical Corps, with support from the European Union, already provides ambulance services from health facilities to secondary healthcare providers, ensuring round the clock access to obstetric and newborn care, as well as other emergency healthcare.
Just as being a doctor helps me work with my son’s condition, so does being a mother help me with my job. Every day I work with other mothers and their children. Every day I am able to help women on their amazing journey during pregnancy to caring for their baby after delivery.
Still, my life feels like a marathon as I try my best to maintain a good balance between my family and work. I am so grateful to my husband and my parents whose support makes this possible. It is difficult to be away from my children, but I am confident that one day they will understand the importance of the work that I do for my community, and that they will be proud of their mother.