As the conflict in Yemen 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 amongst those most heavily affected. Doaa Kutbi, International Medical Corps’ Health Programme Officer based in Aden, knows the struggle better than anybody. She has recently returned to work mere two months after her youngest son was born.
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 in my work; it has motivated me to work harder. I understand other mothers. 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 youngest son, 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 was difficult; it was so painful to be unable to provide what my son needed.
Islam is three months old now, and it is getting easier. However, this experience made me understand the need of other mothers like me, who 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 these kinds of operations.
International Medical Corps is running infant and young child feeding (IYCF) corners in various health facilities in Lahj and Aden, which support lactating mothers and teach them about the importance of breastfeeding. Here women can also breastfeed in privacy while waiting for their consultation appointment.
I am now looking into improving and strengthening these breastfeeding corners to support women who have difficulties breastfeeding, and to provide counselling to those who need it. I am hoping to find a donor who can support surgical camps in my country – especially for those suffering from serious diseases who have no access to qualified surgeons.
International Medical Corps, with support from the European Union, also 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 helped me work with my son’s condition, so does being a mother many times help me in my work. Every day I work with other mothers and children; every day I can help women on the amazing journey from pregnancy to caring for their baby after delivery.
My life feels like a marathon – I try my best to maintain a balance between my family life and working life, and 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.
For more information on the fantastic work by the International Medical Corps Click Here