Our Perspectives

Amidst crisis, helping mothers and newborn to embrace life


two Yemeni womenA future midwife is training in filling out assessment forms as part of a national midwife association training on community mapping. Photo: Rasha Alshargabi/UNDP Yemen

Four-year-old Mohammed caught my eye with his innocent looks and the great amount of happiness that housed his little body. I was amused watching him play with other children in the open ground in his village in Alsilw district, Taizz.

Only later did I learn that his mother died during labor due to the lack of health care services. I thought of how the world would be for a little child without a mother taking care of him.

Sadly, Mohammed’s case is not accidental.  According to official reports, eight women die giving birth every day in Yemen. Almost 84 percent of all births in Yemen take place at home, and only 20 percent of these births have trained attendants present, according to UNFPA.

Of the mothers who die during labor, 75 percent could be saved by the presence of skilled birth attendants and access to health centers.

These challenges are now exacerbated by the ongoing armed conflict, since the mounting lack of access to health systems are resulting in more deaths amongst children and women.

UNDP Yemen has launched the Private Business Midwifery Project, aiming to empower unemployed midwives by developing their businesses, harnessing their untapped midwifery skills, and establishing clinics in 22 districts in Taizz.

Despite the mounting deteriorating security and the ground fighting in Taizz, we managed to conduct field visits for the targeted districts along with the National Yemeni Midwives Association (NYMA), our local partners. We have traveled for 50 days to select the midwives, focusing on the rural areas that are plagued with absence of health services and high rate of poverty.

Earning less than US$1 a day, it is impossible for the poor villagers to pay almost US$100 to travel to any nearby health center in the city of Taizz. We’ve been able to serve more than 8000 people and have created an income for more than 250 midwives and their families.  

One of those midwives, with an impressive character, is Ghawani. Even knowing she may not receive any money for her services, Ghawani never hesitated to respond to any call for help.

 “People here are hardly able to secure their breads, let alone how can they manage the costly expenses to travel and to pay hospitals,” she told me in an empathetic tone. Currently, with the collapse of the health system all over Yemen, their help is in much demand.

As one of the selected midwives in Alsilw district, UNDP will provide Ghawani with a clinic inside her house to be able to provide her community with professional care.

Many women, particularly the young ones, get pregnant again soon after giving birth, raising mortality rates. The midwives will also support the awareness of birth control and provide women with contraceptive methods.

Coinciding with the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals, we aim through our work to meet these new set of sustainable goals and thus create a healthy life for all people and for all ages. In addition, as children and many mothers die every day from hard labor and conflict, this new initiative shows hope and save lives.  

The world we want for children is a world void of threats of death or loss of mothers. Rather, we want a world where they fully embrace life. 

Rasha Alshargabi Gender equality Women's empowerment Jobs and livelihoods HIV and health Crisis response Capacity development Agenda 2030 Arab states Yemen

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