Yemen

The Power of Community Spirit: Overcoming a Health Crisis Together

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Community initiative produces more than 6,000 free face masks, sets up four public sanitization and awareness-raising points and conducts over 3,000 home visits to educate the community about COVID-19 safety in Taiz

“With each mask I produce I feel a great sense of relief knowing that it might save someone’s life – or many lives – in my village and nearby villages,” explains Ahlam, 22, one of 20 volunteer tailors producing PPE.

Since completing a six-day training workshop on medical-grade face mask production, this is how Ahlam spends her mornings. “I joined this workshop and volunteered to make face masks out of a sense of collective responsibility to fight back against the pandemic,” she says, clearly proud of her work.

Equally eager to contribute to protect her community from coronavirus, Dua’a Al-Sunwi was responsible for training the tailors. Known as Health Companions, and a volunteer herself, Ms. Al-Sunwi was motivated to give back to her community in the wake of the crisis. “The volunteers’ passion to end the pain of people, spare them any harm, break the monopoly over face mask sales, and help protect healthcare workers, drove them to produce 350 masks per day,” she explains. “Together, more than 6,000 medical-grade face masks have been produced in the last month and distributed to health facilities.”

Motivated to fight back against COVID-19 together

Dr. Sufyan, public relations officer for this initiative, supported by the Social Fund for Development (SFD), pointed to the exorbitant prices charged by merchants as a key factor prompting members of the Al-Sunna community to take action. “Realizing the vital importance of face masks and witnessing the monopolisation of traders spurred us on,” he explains. “These masks are made freely available to everyone.”

The Health Ambassadors initiative also carried out sanitization campaigns in markets, formed a medical team to detect suspected COVID-19 cases and provided anyone affected by the virus with medical care, also working closely with relevant government agencies to ensure complicated cases were transferred to hospitals and quarantine centres.

“Within this initiative, we established a health fund to fight the new coronavirus,” explains Dr. Sufyan. “This helped promote solidarity among the residents, who raised nearly YER 3 million (around USD 5,000) to implement various activities, including the establishment of sanitization and awareness points at the entrance to Al-Sunna sub-district.”

Motivated by the same goal, the initiative also brought together 120 local healthcare staff for training on epidemiological surveillance and awareness raising. “Together we were able to complete awareness exercises on prevention and the importance of self-isolation and quarantine for more than 3,000 households, and distribute 20,000 awareness leaflets about COVID-19,” says Dr. Sufyan.

Reviving Community Spirit

Mohammed Farea, head of the local services committee, described the initiative’s activities as a herculean effort, “The supply of masks – which had been almost non-existent and expensive in a monopolized market – helped restore hope to people who were panicked in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, which had already claimed many lives worldwide.”

Expressing his gratitude to both the leaders and supporters of the initiative for their tireless efforts, Mr. Farea thanked the initiative for reviving the community spirit, and “motivating many to take action and volunteer themselves in order to cater to the needs of their people and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

These activities were made possible through SFD’s Tamkeen (Empowerment) Programme, which supports local communities by organising them into networks and programmes such as Village Cooperation Councils and sub-district development committees. This model works to mobilise and empower communities to spearhead their own development.