Yemen's child nutrition is deplorable, with high levels of malnutrition among children under the age of five. According to the recently completed Emergency Food Security and Nutrition Assessment, malnutrition rates in all governorates were above acceptable levels. Underdevelopment exacerbates high malnutrition rates in Al-Madaribha, Lahij Governorate, and the community is one of the poorest in Yemen's south.
Where government fails to do its job and basic needs are lacking, independent support groups take over. One of them is Medair: Yasmin is one of 13 mothers who has been trained by the Medair health and nutrition team to conduct the mother-to-mother activity to support the women in the community with important messages on nutrition and breastfeeding in Almadaribah, Lahj Governorate.
"Hello, my name is Yasmin. Almadaribah is where I live with my four children. I used to work as a teacher. I work with women in my community as an educated woman. I see how the women suffer, and I do everything I can to assist my community. As a result, I joined a mother-to-mother support group. These are groups of women who meet to learn about infant and child nutrition."
"The mothers are very open with each other about whatever issues they have," Zahra, a mother-to-mother support group member, said. "It's a safe space to discuss topics that women may feel uncomfortable discussing elsewhere, especially in our conservative society."
The goal of mother-to-mother support groups is to share knowledge and skills, particularly about child nutrition. This is done under the supervision of a group leader who has received child health training.
Mothers and caregivers discuss and receive information, as well as learn best practices, through mother-to-mother support groups.
The mother-to-mother support group leader is chosen from among mothers who demonstrate positive parenting behaviors. Mothers' support groups typically address child health and well-being, as well as economic advancement, literacy, sanitation, and other topics of personal interest.
Members of the support group interact to receive emotional support and useful information. "The twelve women and I in the region have made a big positive change in the community in many ways because every one of us must teach and aware at least seven other mothers so they can also spread the knowledge among their family and friends," Yasmin says.
Mothers changed their harmful behaviors after learning from community health workers and receiving support from other mothers. Yasmin has noticed a significant improvement in the months since the program began. "Previously, mothers in this community did not go to clinics or have their babies delivered in health facilities," she explained. "They now get their information from mother-to-mother support groups." As a result, we no longer see as many children with health problems in our clinics. The community is supportive because the mothers have seen the changes. Everyone is pleased with the initiative." The mothers have learned the value of delivering in a hospital and receiving antenatal care.
Yemen's conflict began six years ago and has severely impacted the Yemeni people's livelihoods. Over 80% of the population is impoverished. Over half of the population requires humanitarian assistance. Four million people have been forced to flee their homes.
In regions where basic needs such as water and food are lacking because public institutions fail in their work and families or single mothers usually despair, self-help or mother-to-mother support groups mentioned above can at least provide mental help and support each other. The more people who join together, the bigger the voice becomes.
More information: https://www.medair.org/stories/standing-together-for-a-better-community/